To Elizabeth Quinn, farmers’ markets represent a vital link between producer and consumer. As the executive director of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM), Quinn has witnessed the local food trend prompt a wave of popularity for farmers’ markets.

“While promising for business, this increased demand has proven difficult to meet with current production capacity, leaving many markets struggling to meet consumer demand,” Quinn explains. “Currently, there are over 70 markets needing more farm vendors to offer the variety of products that their customers want.”

Since 2007, IAF has been proud to support the BC Farmers’ Market Strategic Initiative through projects that help farmers’ markets rise to the opportunities presented and contribute to their long-term success and sustainability.

In 2012, a province-wide study of the economic and community benefits of farmers’ markets was undertaken, which assessed 33 BC markets through feedback collected from vendors, customers, and neighbouring businesses.

Participants such as Haney Farmers Market in Memorial Peace Park were discovered to be a significant player in the local economy, contributing nearly $1.6 million annually (in addition to $1.1 million spent by customers at local businesses on the day of the market).

According to Quinn and market managers like Eileen Dwillies, it is important to understand not only what these markets contribute but also how much they contribute to local neighbourhoods, cities, and towns.

“Although people know the market is a great place to buy fresh, local food, the results of this study help us communicate to others how valuable the farmers’ market is to our community,” Dwillies emphasizes.

In comparing the study to its 2006 predecessor, the results show that farmers’ markets in BC have grown significantly over the past six years, with total direct sales increasing from $46 to $113 million, and market economic contributions rising from $69 million in 2006 to $171 million in 2012.

For Quinn, the surge of popularity is not only gratifying but also promising now that the sector is better equipped to respond to the demand.

“We’re seeing new farmers enter the markets and then those markets finally have the variety they need to offer consumers each week, as well as other resources to help them manage and succeed,” Quinn observes. “Tremendous progress has been made through the initiative and we’re very excited to see the sector advancing.”

Other accomplishments achieved during the past five years of the initiative include the production of a Best Practices Guide to help municipalities establish, support and sustain a vibrant and successful farmers’ market, as well as a series of manager and board governance training workshops and manuals, a sector research and development project, and the MarketSafe training program, an award-winning food safety program designed for farmers’ markets.

Funding: $219,000 allocated through former federal adaptation programming. (S0004)