Small town farmers markets are seeing a resurgence in popularity, as savvy grocery shoppers have now firmly embraced the idea of the 100-mile diet.
The concept is simple, and attractive. Buy fresh produce from growers close to home, and reduce your carbon footprint. At the same time, those dollars go straight into the pockets of local business people, keeping your own community’s economy strong.
But the real benefit may be in getting to know the people who are growing the very food on our dinner tables. Regular shoppers at the Agassiz Farm Fresh Market have learned the value in meeting the producers of their fruits, vegetables and meats.
“They can just talk to the farmer about how they made their food,” said Kate Onos-Gilbert, an organizer who is also one of Agassizs main tulip growers. “They can see how their food comes from seed to the table.”
But the market isn’t just about food. It began three years ago, as an initiative created by the District of Kent’s community and recreation department. They put the call out to the entire Fraser Valley farming and crafting community to get involved. The resulting market was such a success, the District has been able to step back and let a community-run committee take over. This is that committee’s first year running the program independently, Onos-Gilbert said.
For the first two years, the market had the automatic financial assistance of the District. This year, they had to apply for a grant, just like any other community group would. Their request was accepted, helping keep vendor fees low, and allowing for some promotion of the market.
And they’re staying with the original mandate of the market, which was ‘make it, bake it, grow it’. Almost all of the produce is from within 100 miles of Agassiz, she said, with some products being from other areas in B.C.
But we won’t take anything that was grown outside of the province, she said. As an exciting addition to the ever-growing popularity of the small-town market, they have officially joined in with the Agassiz Harrison Mills Circle Farm Tour. That is expected to draw even larger numbers into Agassiz, boosting tourism and creating even more awareness for the areas vibrant, diverse farming community.
“This is about being able to go into your own backyard here in Agassiz and buy direct from the growers,” she said.
They are still confirming the final list of vendors, and still accepting applications. The market will open June 7, and run every Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. As more proof that this concept is taking hold in the Valley, the market will now also run Saturdays in the month of July, from 9 a.m. to noon.
The last two years, Verard Farms have been bringing in fresh and frozen pork products from Chilliwack, and have been one of the most popular vendors. Onos-Gilbert is hoping to draw in more meat producers to round out the options for shoppers.
“Everyone appreciates having the fresh pork there,” she said.
Last year, children were invited to become sellers, too. Onos-Gilberts own son could be seen some weeks, selling handmade items. Another young seller brought out his impressive rock and gem collection, offering pieces for sale and explaining their history.
This year promises to showcase even more local youth crafts and talents.
“The youth component is actually the biggest group that has expressed interest in returning,” she said.
Other returning vendors include a homemade, dried soup seller from Hope who even carries a variety of gluten-free mixes. There will be home-made baked goods and a booth selling hand-crafted baby clothes, as well.
Last year saw 12 full-time vendors and about eight part time vendors. So far, at least 10 vendors have expressed interest or confirmed. Onos-Gilbert is hoping for more, and vendors don’t have to commit to the entire summer to be involved.
The market will run until the last Thursday in September, and is held in the Aberdeen parking lot on Pioneer Avenue, between Jacks Restaurant and The Agassiz Harrison Observer office.
For more information on becoming a vendor, contact Kate at 604-796-3496. To get the most out of your trip to the Agassiz Farm Fresh Market each Thursday, visit the Circle Farm Tour website to learn about other producers to visit in the area. Farm products available from the source include hazelnuts, cranberries, cheese and corn, depending on the season.