Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Need for more Farmer's Markets

Here in Victoria we have some markets, but not enough in my opinion.

For a couple of years I operated a market stall in Whistler BC. I had no idea what I was doing, but still managed to make a not bad income. It was also a lot of fun. I would love to have more market options here in Victoria, here is what we have at the moment:

Moss Street - a reasonably strong one in Fairfield, though the setting is not one that really is good for larger scale producers. It feels more like local colour than a place where you can make money. I have looked after a stall there on a few weekends for a friend and the business was not great. For local colour, I would go back, but not to shop.

James Bay has one right behind the legislature. I have been there and the offerings are very slim. No significant produce was on hand. Even if I happened to be driving by, I am unlikely to stop there.

Government Street Market - it is on Sundays and closes a section of Government close to the McPherson theatre. This market seems to have almost nothing for a local to purchase. I would never chose to go there for any reason.

Sidney Summer Market is on Thursday evenings and is the biggest market I have seen in this region. A huge amount of traffic as they close Beacon ave to traffic. I have also run a market stall at this market and was underwhelmed by how many of the people were not there to shop, but only to socialize. The busiest stalls are the ones where meals are on offer - you have to stand in line at these stalls for 30 minutes or more. This is the only market where I have seen real farmer's with their produce. They seem to do well and move large amounts of produce.

The markets at Esquimalt, Saanichiton, Metchosin and Sooke are all ones that I have been to so I can not comment on them.

The neighbourhood I live in - the Burnside Tillicum area. I believe that this area should have a farmer's market and it should be one where it is very easy for a person to pull up with a pickup to sell their produce. It also needs a location that is open to expansion, is on the main drag and acts as a community draw.

I believe that the underused south eastern corner of the Tillicum mall would be a perfect location for a market. I understand that Rio Can may simply not agree to this as one of their tenants is Safeway and the market could be seen as competition. In my opinion it would be in Safeway's interest to get more people on the east side of the mall so that they will see Safeway and potentially walk in. If I bought all my produce at the market and needed some more groceries, I would be inclined to look to Safeway because it would save me a trip. This would only be true if I could quickly walk to the store to finish my shopping.

Many locations that host markets make the mistake of not making as easy as possible for someone in a pickup to come in and set up. You need this access so that you will get the produce farmers, they are what will make a market really work well.

One of the best markets in BC is the East Vancouver Farmer's Market. It is held in the parking lot of the Croatian Cultural Centre. It is easy for vendors to set up and therefore there are a lot of high quality producers at the market. Producers come from the interior to go this market because they can sell a lot of fresh produce, $1000 to $3000 each time they go.

In Victoria I do not see a single market that is attracting anyone from up island to drive a few hours to sell their wares. There are a lot of producers in the Cowichan valley, they could be selling to the public here.

A Tillicum market should look to attracting people that would like to move 1000 pounds or more of produce per week. If there are a dozen real scale farmers at the market, the public will be there as well.

I am going to write up something on this and propose it to the Gorge Tillicum Community Association and the Burnside Gorge Community Association. I think these two groups are the ones that could spear head this
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