The biggest news that the Farmers Market had for Smithers council was that they were working towards having the market all year round.
Mark Fisher and Manfred Wittwer met with council as a delegation last week, to provide an update on how things have been going. Creating a good relationship with the town and council is something they’d like to work on, they said.
“The last two years have been successful,” Fisher said.
Interest in the market, he said, is growing. While in years past they have held the market indoors bi-weekly in the fall, they would like to see that continue from January to March.
They’re also working to find a way to continue the community coupon program. An initiative of the B.C. Farmer’s Market Association, the funding for the program was cut last year.
But the program was a good one, Fisher said, not only providing access to lower-income shoppers but skill building as well as they learn about the food they’re buying.
So they’re trying to reinstate the program, not just for food vendors but for all participating vendors, Fisher said, hopefully by mid-summer.
And while they’ve had interest from more vendors, they don’t really have the room for more at the moment, he said, so for the moment, they’ve reached their capacity.
But would they be open to discussion for moving the Farmer’s Market?
That question came from Mayor Cress Farrow, who later noted that one option would be to close Main Street down for Saturday morning and have the market located there.
Council has, he said, heard complaints from some members of the business community.
“We do hear concerns from businesses who do lose traffic when you’re open,” Farrow said.
Fisher, however, said that a study done with the Smithers Merchants found that traffic on Main Street increased overall after the Farmers Market patrons were done, and free to meander up Main Street.
“We’re willing to talk about moving,” he said. “But we’re happy with our current location, it gets tourists to stop, stay longer and go downtown.”
Councillor Charlie Northrup questioned how even the playing field was when it came to competition: before, it was just valley-grown produce, now, there is furniture, meat and a myriad of crafts available, but only a select few can enter to the Farmer’s Market. Market policy is that an item must be made, baked, or grown in the valley and be from a non-established small entrepreneur to be considered vendor worthy.
Parking, Northrup added, is also a concern. Are there means they can employ to promote walking or cycling to the market, he asked.
“Bicycle racks would help,” Fisher responded. “Maybe the town could provide those…?”
The Farmer’s Market really draws people to the community, Farrow acknowledged, and having just come back from the North Central Local Government Association Convention in Prince Rupert, he can say that we’re known for our farmer’s market.
But consistency is a concern for them, he said. What of a business who started at the market who then builds a storefront but continues to operate in the market, but an established business who didn’t start at the market isn’t allowed in.
“There’s a little bit of concern that way,” Farrow said. “Council is always asked these questions, so we had a chance tonight to ask those questions of the Farmers Market.”