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Whistler Farmers’ Market to get more farmers and a lot more local

Whether you’re environmentally enlightened, community minded, quality conscious, health conscious, or just plain cheap, the Whistler Farmers’ Market has something for everybody.

It was only one year ago that the Whistler Farmers’ Market became a democracy, by, for and of the people who have a stake in the way the market was being run. Rather than a single person handling all of the details, the job of organizing the market fell upon local farmers, bakers, crafters and artisans – market vendors who shared the same general idea of how a farmers’ market should operate.

The idea was to make the market as local as possible and to structure the market in such a way as to bring more farmers into the fold.

"We have enough food, and our artists and crafts makers are talented enough to fill every booth at the market," says market manager Lovena Harvey, who tends The Gathering Place Organic Farm with her husband. "We don’t need anyone else."

The Whistler Farmers’ Market is part of the B.C. Farmers’ Market Association, an organization Harvey helped to found and worked with in its early stages to establish guiding principles for participating farmers’ markets. Before the association came into being, the prevailing feeling was that farmers’ markets were slowly turning into flea markets and local content was slowly disappearing.

To counter this, the market association implemented a 100 per cent "Make, Bake or Grow" guideline that stipulates that every product sold at the farmers’ market has to originate in the geographical region served by the farmers’ market. In addition, a full 50 per cent of the booths had to be set aside for the local farmers, who were becoming a rarity in the farmers’ market scene.

The first season under the new guidelines was a huge success, says Harvey, and every vendor from last season is planning to return this year.

"Everybody did very well last year. I didn’t hear a complaint from anybody. Farmers and bakers sold out, artists sold paintings, crafts were moving, it was just incredible."

What’s more, she has received phone calls from dozens of other local farmers and vendors this who are interested in leasing a space at the market this year.

"Last year we had about 50 booths on our busiest weekend, and this year I could see us going as high as 70 booths, and averaging between 50 and 60," Harvey says.

There were between 15 and 20 farms on the average weekend, which meant that only 25 to 40 per cent of vendors were farmers on any given week. While this average was well shy of the 50 per cent stipulated by the market association guidelines, more local farmers have indicated interest. Harvey believes it will only be a matter of time before the market is fully compliant.


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