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BEPPLE – Many reasons an indoor farmers’ market is the wrong way to go

Columnist Nancy Bepple at the Kamloops Farmers’ Market in 1994.

KAMLOOPS REGIONAL FARMERS’ Market is celebrating its 40thanniversary.  What a huge achievement.  Starting with four stalls, it is now held on Wednesdays and Saturdays with scores of farm vendors, as well as crafts, wines and beer, food and beverages, and community tables.

This last Saturday’s market was like many: long before the end of the market, many vendors had sold out of their wares.  People in Kamloops love our market.  Kamloops come out in droves to support the market.

I love the market too. As far back as I can remember, I’ve gone to the market.  It’s a place to buy the best of the local farms, freshly picked within hours of when they are purchased.  It’s also a place where I go to meet up with others.  Sometimes it’s planned, but more often than not, it is a chance meeting. I don’t know who I’ll meet, but I know I will meet someone.

If it has been going on so long, so successfully, why mess with success?

This spring, a private group, called Kamloops Public Market Co-operative, came forward to City Council with a proposal for an indoor public market.  The proposed business would be 35,000 square feet, and include space for vendors inside as well as outdoor stalls. They proposed putting the market on the footprint of the Heritage House parking lot on Lorne Street, adjacent to Riverside Park. City councillor and farmer market vendor Dieter Dudy is one of the proponents of the indoor market.

Banjo player Bepple joins Mendel Rubinson for a song at the Farmers’ Market.

As much as I love the Kamloops Regional Farmers’ Market, there is no way I support this proposal. There are so many reasons an indoor market is the wrong way to go.

Kamloops Farmers’ Market runs from April 21 to October 27, Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on St. Paul Street and adjacent Stuart Wood School site, and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Victoria Street.

There are 145 farmers’ markets in B.C.  Whether in large cities, like Vancouver and Kelowna, or small centres, like Cumberland or Pender Island, they follow similar formulas.  They are all open a few days a week, for a limited number of hours. Most run from about April or May to October, just like Kamloops’ market. In summer, they are out-of-doors. There are only a handful of markets that have a winter market, held indoors with very limited dates and times.

The Kamloops Public Market Co-operative may be thinking of Granville Island Market as a model to follow. But to compare a market that serves a population of 2.5 million in Greater Vancouver with Kamloops and area with a population of 100,000 is unrealistic.

Kingston, Ontario, has a population of about 118,000.  It has the oldest farmers’ market in Ontario, starting in 1801.   It is outside and in the centre of their downtown, not at the fringe of a park.  It runs three days a week from April to November.

Red Deer, Alberta, has a population of about 100,000.  Its farmers’ market is 47 years old.  Their website showcases smiling people in an outdoor setting.  It runs Saturdays with similar hours as Kamloops.

Brandon, Manitoba is a little less than 100,000.  It has both a summer and a winter market.  Just like in B.C., the summer market is a few months long, from June until October, on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  In winter, it runs from October to June, on Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Across Canada, the formula for markets is the same.  Outside when the weather is warm, and in a very few cities, indoor, winter markets. There is very limited numbers of days and hours, whether it is summer or winter.

Farmers’ markets are successful especially because of the limited hours.

I don’t go to the farmers’ market on Saturdays only for the vegetables.  I go there to see people.  In fact that’s one of the major reasons I go.  There is no way the chance encounters of a Saturday morning market would occur as frequently if it was spread out across seven days of full business hours.  I might meet someone, but probably no more often than at the grocery store.

The idea that the demand for farmers’ market goods would expand to fill the expanded hours is also challenging.  People come to the market because of the limited hours.  It provides a focus, it creates an event.

And I don’t go to the farmers’ market in summer to go inside.  There are a number of green grocers in Kamloops who stock local farmers’ produce.  I could go to any of those and get Kamloops produce.  I go to the summer market to be outside, and to enjoy the sunshine.  An indoor market in the summer is a no-go for me.

I’ve got some wonderful memories at Kamloops Regional Farmers’ Market.  Back in 1994, I worked at the market at my aunt’s booth where she sold spinach, apples and other produce.  Over the last 15 years, I’ve played my banjo at the market many times as well.   And every few weeks, my 83-year-old mom sends me on a mission to find a perfect vegetable of some sort or other.  I’m sure many have their own special memories of the market.

Forty years of memories tells me that now is not the time to change.   I love the market how it is, and I’m sure others agree.

Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6241 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on BEPPLE – Many reasons an indoor farmers’ market is the wrong way to go

  1. R A George // July 20, 2018 at 8:54 PM // Reply

    Nancy is right on all counts.

  2. Pat Glennfor // July 18, 2018 at 11:57 AM // Reply

    Costco should also be open for a max of 2 days a week to maximize socializing. Most business owners will tell you it’s not about moving product, but rather providing spaces for ppl to talk about the weather.

  3. What I have heard is only a small fraction of the “frequenters”, about 10% actually, buy anything with any regularity. And stalls selling out by lunchtime are also not the norm.
    Can someone corroborate?
    But I kind of agree the present setup is quite a funky and groovy one and its success perhaps hard to replicate and enhance with conventional marketing metrics. An indoor farmers market open all the time will either fold relatively quickly or become just like any other grocery stores. Now we wouldn’t wish that to our venerable farmers market, would we?

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