by Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance
Surely, everyone has heard of the 100-mile diet.
But the Langley Community Farm Market beats it by 80 miles or so.
“Everything that is sold is made, baked, or grown by the person that is selling it,” explained market manager Cherise McGee, “and we abide strictly by those rules.”
As part of the BC Farmers Market Association, the local version – a non-profit that connects local farm producers with a broad customer base at Kwantlen University’s Langley campus on Wednesdays and at Timms Community Centre on Saturdays – “it is strictly mandated that everybody is local.”
And by local, they really mean everything about it.
Participating farmers are expected to apply for space on the market schedule by March each year.
“Then we do a farm visit to check out your farm,” said McGee. “We check everything that you’re applying for, and make sure that you’re not reselling wholesale tomatoes or something like that.”
GUMBOOT GALA: The Langley Farmers Market Society hosts its third annual gala on Saturday, Aug. 18, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Having outgrown its original home in the Langley Seniors Centre, it’s going to be held at the Central Park Farms. It’s a fundraiser for the Food Recovery Program. Tickets: $75 at www. eventbrite.ca.
The Saturday market at Timms is new this year. The larger Wednesday market has been running for a decade, with McGee as manager for the past four years.
“Wednesday is our bigger market,” said McGee, “We have anywhere from 45 to 50 vendors at the Wednesday market, depending on the time of season, and about 15 to 20 per cent of those are farmers who bring things like meat, cheese… We also have prepared-food folks that sell ready-to-eat meals, like perogies, cookies, bread – it’s all pretty much artisan prepared foods.
“And then we have the craft side of things, where people make things like soap, home-made cleaners, jewelry… but we try to keep those numbers low because we’re more about the food.”
“Saturday is between 25 and 35 vendors,” McGee added, “Again, it’s seasonal dependant. We have about 120 vendors, total.”
Vendors who didn’t get their applications in on time might still have a shot for this summer.
“A lot of the farmers aren’t ready until July,” McGee said, “The schedule is set by mid-April, usually, but we still accept vendors because we do have the new second market, or we might have to fill a void because somebody has dropped out because their farm may not be producing. They’re just small-scale, and they might not have enough food to sell at the market, so we take on others as we need.”
That opportunity is mostly for those with farm produce available.
“We are farm-focused, so we take farmers, no matter what, really.” said McGee. “Every situation is different. If there’s a farmer that comes, yes, but if there’s a soap-vendor, no – we have enough of those.”
The markets typically run from mid-May to mid-October (visit lcfm.ca online).
They’re about giving small operators opportunities.
“We kind of consider ourselves as an incubator,” said McGee. “It’s cheap and it’s exhausting, but it’s one of the best ways to get in front of your community for the least amount of money for as long as you can comfortably handle it.”
A number of local agri-businesses have grown past the farmers market, and McGee heartily applauds them.
A lot of the successful farms, like Krause Berry Farms and JD Turkey… all those guys have at one point been vendors at the Langley market, but they don’t have the need to do that now,” she said.
“It’s a lot of work to run a booth at the market, and it’s cumbersome, so if they don’t have to do that anymore, then good for them!”
The local farmers market society endeavour to keep the vendors’ fees pretty low because it is a non-profit, she explained.
“Most of the folks who come to sell at the market can’t afford to pay a lot, so our sell fees are only $40 a table for an attended date.”
As part of the bargain, vendors are expected to be on time, with all of their supplies.
“We just provide their square footprint, so they have to provide tents and tables.”
McGee, who grew up on a farm in Langley, likes the community aspect of her work – which goes beyond providing a market for local farmers.
“We offer a young entrepreneurs program,” she said, her enthusiasm palpable. “We offer free space for anyone 18 and younger, who has decided to venture into entrepreneurism. We have one table a week where we put up the table and tent and everything for them, and they bring their goodies, soap, and all sorts of different things. Because it’s also a learning process for them, they apply and go through the process, and we make sure their products are made by them and not mom. Obviously, mom can help, but it has to be theirs.”
In association with the BC Ministry of Health, the Langley market participates in the Nutrition Coupon Program “to give low-income families coupons to shop at the market.”
“We do other things as well,” McGee added.
“We are a community non-profit. We offer community tables. We work with pretty much any community group that you can think of. We provide space for the school district, Terry Fox, Langley Assisted Living, Langley Seniors Centre… Then there’s the Food Recovery Program…”
In short, she said, “It’s all about the community.”