Tasting and selling, but not drinking comes to farmer’s market

New liquor rules notwithstanding, don’t expect the Haney Farmers Market to look more like an Oktoberfest celebration.

New liquor rules notwithstanding, don’t expect the Haney Farmers Market to look more like an Oktoberfest celebration.

The B.C. government is loosening controls on liquor distribution in B.C., which will now see the potential for craft beer, wine and spirits to be sampled and sold at venues like festivals and farmers’ markets.

The new rules were announced last week, and they have generally been warmly received.

Colleen Williams, the coordinator of the local market, immediately sees an opportunity for vendors like honey producer Enrico Bovero, who makes mead, but has not been able to sell the honey wine at markets.

She said there are also great opportunities to pair wines with food sold at the event.

“What could be better than going home with a crusty loaf of bread, a chunk of cheese and  a bottle of mead?”

But don’t expect to sit down at the market and consume it, Williams said.

“I don’t see that happening, because you have to have a specific liquor licence. And our focus is on families.”

She said the market operators will discuss how best to make use of the new regulations in the coming year.

Williams said the 30-week market at Memorial Peace Park has been a great success, continually growing over the past decade.

“Even on a rainy, horrible, despicable day, we still get 500 people.”

People still come every Saturday, even at the end of the season, shopping for fresh carrots, garlic and winter squash.

This year the market season was extended by four weeks, and has been held at a greenhouse at the Grow and Gather Nursery, located at Dewdney Trunk Road and 245th Street.

A shuttle brings people from the bandstand at the park to the greenhouse every half hour. That event has drawn 800 customers.

The District of Maple Ridge reports that the farmer’s market attracts 60,000 customers a year, generating $1.6 million in spending each year, as well as another $1.1 million at surrounding local businesses.

Haney market manager Eileen Dwillies would like to see local vintners such as Blue Heron be able to offer a taste of their wine at the Haney Farmers Market, and be able to sell bottles there.

“I think it would make us a little diversified, and might bring in a different crowd,” Dwillies said.

“We would never have a beer garden.”

At the Haney market, the policy has always been “locals get first dibs.”

The provincial association also lauded the changes.

“Offering out-of-town visitors as well as regular market shoppers the option to taste-test and purchase locally made wines, ciders and craft

beer, while they shop for local fruits and vegetables will ensure support for a vibrant farming sector in B.C.,” said Jon Bell, president of the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets. “It’s also a great way for small local businesses that use B.C. grown farm products in alcoholic beverages to reach new customers, while providing increased selection and convenience.”