John, Martha, and Carl Brandt picked strawberries at the family farm in 1936 (Maple Ridge Museum & Archives #P06658/Special to The News).
Melissa Rollit is curator of the Maple Ridge Museum & Community Archives. (Special to The News)

John, Martha, and Carl Brandt picked strawberries at the family farm in 1936 (Maple Ridge Museum & Archives #P06658/Special to The News). Melissa Rollit is curator of the Maple Ridge Museum & Community Archives. (Special to The News)

LOOKING BACK: Farmers markets unpopular in historic Maple Ridge

It wasn’t until the third attempt in 2004 that a retail venue focused on produce took hold

By Melissa Rollit/Special to The News

Back in the early days of Maple Ridge, the town was heavily influenced by its two main industries: logging and farming.

As a primarily agricultural town, one might assume that Maple Ridge had a long history of farmers markets.

However this was, in fact, quite the opposite.

The lack of farmers markets in the early 1900s was in part due to the small population of Maple Ridge at the time.

There simply was not enough local customers in the area to make the business of a farmers market profitable.

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To tap into a larger customer base, local farmers would take their produce and wares to the New Westminster Farmers Market. Despite being quite a distance from Maple Ridge, especially when considering the commute was done via wagons, New Westminster was an important commercial hub during the early days before Maple Ridge and other Fraser Valley towns were fully developed.

The New Westminster market, established in 1892, served farmers from the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland for more than 50 years.

Another reason why farmers markets were not popular in early Maple Ridge was precisely because it was an agricultural town.

While modern life and condo living might make it difficult to grow your own food for the season today, in the early 1900s most residents had their own vegetable gardens in the backyard.

This made the idea of a local farmers market impractical. Especially when the produce fresh from their own gardens could easily rival the produce on sale at a market, which could quickly degrade in quality due to the lack of refrigeration methods at the time.

The first farmers market in Maple Ridge was established in 1935, and was located south of the Aggie Hall, which would now be located in Memorial Peace Park. The building was a shed-like structure with open fronted stalls that sold produce – such as apples, from local farmers.

Sadly, it was not to last. In the midst of the Great Depression and with a lack of paying customers, the market shut down shortly after opening.

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Headed by the business development city department, the next attempt at an organized farmers market came in 1997. The twice-monthly event, while full of local artisans and entertainment, had a difficult time recruiting local farmers to participate, and eventually also closed.

The third attempt at a farmers market found lasting success, opening in 2004 and operating to this day.

Through the years, the Haney Farmers Market has become more and more established, and an important part of the local economy. You can find this market at Memorial Peace Park, where it has operated every Saturday morning since it opened nearly 17 years ago.

– Melissa Rollit is curator of the Maple Ridge Museum

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