The South Cariboo Farmers’ Market is hailing this season a success despite having been bounced to two locations as a result of wildfires and COVID-19.
Market manager Amanda Patterson said a quick survey of vendors Friday found most people were happy with the season despite not having a stable location. The market, which had previously been held at the 100 Mile Community Hall parking lot, had moved to the South Cariboo Rec Centre this summer to make way for COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the hall but was then bumped temporarily to the South Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre (SCFEC) parking lot when BC Wildfire seconded the site.
“Even though it’s been quieter and we changed locations a bunch of times, there has been some great community support,” Patterson said. “There’s definitely been some struggles and ups and downs with COVID and travel restrictions and the vaccine thing but I would consider it a successful season.”
Patterson said even the crafters, who lost out on a month of sales because the market was food only at the SCFEC, found they had good sales when they returned to the rec centre. About six new vendors also joined the market this year, she noted, bringing the number to 24.
New vendors included Joel Middlemass, of HM Ranch near Buffalo Creek, who was selling his garlic at the market this year after the garlic festival in Lac La Hache was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Middlemass said he decided to start growing garlic as a way to diversify his farm. He was flogging 10 varieties, from Creme de la Rosa to Red Russian last Friday.
“I wanted to try it and I fell in love with the different varieties,” he said, adding he didn’t like garlic until he tasted the homegrown varieties. “The flavour was so much different than what is usually sold in the store. I’m going to try even more next year.”
Rita Giesbrecht, who sits on the board of the South Cariboo Farmers’ Market, said she was pleased to see so many vendors this year. The market is a member of the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets, which means it must have 51 per cent of food vendors.
She said the first thing on the agenda after this season is finding a permanent home, which would increase the footprint from where they can draw vendors. The market is open to vendors across B.C., she added.
“For the sake of our customers we want to have more variety and offer more opportunities for people to shop,” she said. “It’s up to us to create a market space that makes it worthwhile for them. That is going to be our main project this winter, stabilizing our location because it has been chaotic.”
As an essential service, this is critical, she said, because the market has to be open. Giesbrecht would like to see the District of 100 Mile close off the street for the market, similar to what is done in other cities.
“We have to figure out a plan,” she said. “We need to have a real home.”