A decade of the farmer’s market

More people buying, more people selling, and now wine and beer at Haney Farmers Market

Haney Farmer’s Market Society chair Sandra Ramsay cuts a 10th anniversary cake with MLAs Marc Dalton (left)

Haney Farmer’s Market Society chair Sandra Ramsay cuts a 10th anniversary cake with MLAs Marc Dalton (left)

The long-term goal for the Haney Farmer’s Market is to ensure the event lives up to its name.

“We’re almost there,” says Eilleen Dwillies, executive-director of the Haney Farmers Market Society.

‘There,’ is attaining an 80-20 ratio of farmers and food producers to arts and crafts vendors so that fresh food is in abundance at the downtown market, held every Saturday morning from May to October.

Dwillies says the number of farmers selling their produce varies from week to week, depending what’s around to sell.

On the May long weekend, for instance, only eight farmers were booked in.

But then the crops start growing and harvesting happens and there is an abundance of fresh, local food for local families.

“In the hot days of summer, we do get more.”

For instance, during the following Saturday, 15 local farms were scheduled.

“Certainly better than we had 10 years ago,” said Dwillies.

The Haney Farmers Market is marking a full decade in Memorial Peace Park in downtown Maple Ridge, after opening for the first full growing season in 2005.

The market is still looking for more farmers, particularly those who fall under the old definition of “mixed farming,” operations of between one and five acres that produce a variety of crops.

Wild Fresh Seafoods and Stapleton Sausage are now on site, but Dwillies would like to see a meat vendor.

Dwillies says being able to sell their smaller quantities locally allows those smaller farm operations to survive.

“We have a number of farmers who are succeeding and living comfortably due to farmers’ markets as they do not have enough quantity to sell to large grocery operations.”

Never Say Die Farms in Pitt Meadows is one of those operations.

Selling their range of produce at farm markets in Maple Ridge, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam keeps the farm viable.

“We are known for our Russian garlic,” said Se Laan. “No comparison to other garlics.”

Her farm has been there since the market first opened for half a season in 2004.

She likes the friendlier, intimate nature of the market, where buyers and sellers kibbutz and enjoy the morning.

“It’s a good market,” she adds.

New last year was the ability to buy and sample wine and beer. As a result, Damali Lavender and Winery, Maan Estate Winery, Township 7 Vineyard, Dragon Mist Vodka and Campbell’s Gold Honey and Meadery are now on site.

That attracts a new set of customers who are not just set on getting the best beets.

Judy Campbell, with Campbell’s gold honey farm and meadery in Abbotsford, says the farm markets have been boon to business since the rules changed in 2014 allowing liquor to be sold.

“It’s been incredible the exposure we have had from farm markets. It’s phenomenal.” Previously, they had to draw people to their farm in Abbotsford. Now, they can go to where the customers are. They now sell at a half dozen farm markets in the Lower Mainland.

“They’re hidden gems both for the public and the farmers.”

Farmer’s markets allows sellers to talk to shoppers about their products.

Add in music and places to sit and drink coffee and Maple Ridge’s downtown is transformed to another world for the Saturday mornings, when a total of about 65 vendors now show up.

“It keeps the downtown lively on a Saturday,” says Dwillies.

The usual attendance of about 2,000 people jumped to 2,600 on the May 9 market, Dwillies said.

“What I hear is … our vendors are so friendly to everybody. We are a happy market.”