This summer’s extended heat and dryness made it tough for farmers, but those involved in the Langley Community Farmers’ Market are expanding the market to cater to more members of the public.
Weather was a factor throughout the farmers market season which here runs May to October at Langley’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University campus. The final market of the season was Oct. 4.
“Across the province, the farmers markets got a little bit of a slow start which kind of petered into the whole season,” said market manager Cherise McGee. “But overall it’s been really good. Even with the weather not on the farmers’ side we’ve had a really good season.”
Glen Valley Artichoke Farms has been bringing its mix of produce to the market for about five years.
They go to other, bigger farmers markets in Vancouver but want to support the local market.
“We’ve built up a clientele,” said owner Donna Plough about what keeps the farm coming back. “I get in trouble if I’m not here,” she added with a chuckle.
Most of items on her tables are vegetables, including the farm’s namesake artichokes and even artichoke blossoms with their softball-sized spiky flower heads that look like something from another planet.
While the hot, dry summer has been good for some produce, it wasn’t for artichokes.
“They flower too fast” in the heat,” Plough explained.
Across B.C., farmers markets have reporting weather related problems.
The Langley market has settled into its Wednesday 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. pattern for a few seasons after switching around days and hours of operation. It’s found its niche.
“We definitely have our regulars, people that come every week, because they want to see certain vendors,” marketing manager Kirsten Day said.
She and McGee are the only staff. There’s also a pool of about 10 volunteers and each market typically has six volunteers helping.
“It’s the people coming out that make it run and the great group of volunteers. We couldn’t do it without them,” Day said.
The local market has introduced ways to broaden the market’s appeal such live entertainment and food trucks.
The farmers market also has its own currency so that each vendor does not have to go to the expense of setting up electronic payment systems. People can buy the wooden currency from the information booth at the market and spend it like cash.
The market also tracks as much data as it can.
“We do vendor counts every half an hour with a little clicker. Our volunteers go around and count the amount of shoppers, and we record that every week,” McGee explained.
That’s how they know that attendance was on par with last year. Typically the Langley market has seen growth every year over the past nine seasons.
“[The numbers] are about the same as they were last year, but every year we’ve seen substantial growth and that growth was pretty much flat this year, not decreased, just not the usual pick up,” McGee said. “I believe directly related to the weather. That goes across all markets in the province.”
This year’s season is not stopping the market organizers from building on several years of history with a second summer market starting in 2018.
“It’s our 10-year anniversary next season and we’re going to be introducing a second market Saturdays,” McGee noted.
It will be a different location, closer to the downtown core to attract those who have not been able to attend the Wednesday market.
“We have a really specific crowd that comes to this market Wednesdays,” said McGee. “We want to tap into all the other folks that want to be here but are working. We’re going to expand for our 10th year. It will be a different vibe.”
HO, HO, HO
The change of seasons usually means farmers markets close up for several months but the Langley Community Farmers Market is adding a Winter Market starting Nov. 4. After that, they are on the second Saturday of the month until April.
The monthly markets will still be at the KPU Langley campus but have both indoor and outdoor vendors.
“It will be little bit more craft and prepared food focused, explained McGee.
To try and include more farmers, not just artisans and food makers, the market is looking at what sorts of marketable produce can be grown at other times of the year.
“We’re encouraging farmers to start experimenting more with winter growing, so that hopefully that creates a cycle for seasons to come,” McGee said.
Since the markets will be one each month, there’s more time in between for planning, and McGee said the markets will be themed based on the significant holiday of each month. Expect Santa Claus at the December market and lots of hearts in February.
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