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City Market – Gaining Ground

03.27.11

For our city, this venue [City Hall] housing our City Market is a big deal. To date we have had one year-round market in the city, and its walls are only so big. Demand is bigger. So is supply. Whoever lined the City Market up with City Hall deserves a big pat on the back.

I’ve been struggling for months with what to say [or not say] about farmers’ markets. I learned a lot last year while shooting videos on farms, some frustrating, some angering. And I’ve learned a lot more since. Slagging markets is not on my agenda, but improving them through consumer awareness is. My situation is currently complicated by the fact that as of February I’m serving on the board of the Alberta Farmer’s Market Association. More on all this soon enough, as it’s been a long time coming.

What I can say [I think...?] is that farmers’ markets are a critical part of the solution when it comes to responsible agriculture and responsible eating. In a world where big business guides policy makers on what the public should see on labels [GMO being a big one for me personally], it’s so lovely to side step all that crap and have a relationship with the farm directly. And for those wanting to bail from industrially farmed food, I can’t think of a better forum than a farmer’s market to connect directly with producers. Nothing beats it. It is, as of right now, the best solution to an increasingly visible problem that is our contemporary industrial food supply.

Which is why the City Market going indoors in such an appropriate venue is a big step in my mind. Not just because those wanting to eat local have won a big piece of the year [a quarter, roughly] to further do so – they could have gone to OSFM. Vastly more importantly to me is that more farms are getting the chance to sell to their customers – farms that would otherwise be shut out of existing already-too-full-waiting-list-only markets. That’s months of extra revenue, which will for some will be the difference between whether they’ll be there to serve you in the future – or not. Our farming community needs access to this kind of thing. We need them to have it. Thanks again, to the good folks who are working to connect those dots.

9 Responses

  1. Laura Frey says:

    Not to mention is give people a great reason to go down town. Hello, revitalization!

  2. habanerogal says:

    Glad to see this kind of action am really surprised this was never done in the past

  3. Raymond says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I am curious to see if City Market can avoid becoming yet another “craft market” with some producer vendors. And if the political quagmire that OSFM became can be avoided. Were I to suggest a particular policy for a market it would be “Farmers get first crack at space, direct secondary producers (flour, etc. if not ground by grower) second, made products such as baked goods, etc and lastly crafts.
    Some would rightly point out that craft fold should have access to such markets as well, but I personally feel it is NOT currently an issue and access to food is.

  4. Laura – agreed.
    H – yeah, me too.
    Raymond – I can’t wait to speak to your comment!! [next month]

  5. Popped in to the Alberta Avenue market the other day. It was fantastic to see it in such a location, but our wonder was whether this helped or hurt a market in a mostly low-income neighbourhood. Definitely the right idea, but is having a $6 loaf of bread, albeit quite hearty and tasty, any way to get low-income earners buying here and not at the nearest Save-On? We can talk about the benefits forever, but the dollar still matters to many, particularly in this location.

  6. The dollar always matters, and when you make your own bread, it costs pennies a loaf. However, you have touched on a huge issue… that of our industrialized food economy and the trade laws that have our own dept of Agriculture encouraging and providing incentives to our farmers to grow more grow more grow more for export export export. It is only in the industrialized world that we no longer eat locally. All developing nations still eat locally. Not us. We may try. Fervently, but our government policies are clearly encouraging our local farmers to export their goods. It is a long hard road for a farmer who chooses to sell locally. He is fighting the prices (because of our trade agreement) of cheaper product (by far) from Mexico or other places, even with the carbon footprint included. This is a huge problem and one we must understand and work to change. If we support our local farmers by paying them what they deserve (Canadian prices and Canadian labour) 45% of our dollar will stay in the local economy. If one chooses to by the imported product for a much cheaper price, only about 15% of the dollar stays in our local economy. It is a choice. It is not an easy choice.
    :)
    Valerie

  7. Kevin says:

    Cheryl – me, ever the cheapass, totally agrees with you. Which is why I think the solution to access is truly more along the lines of how our family acquires our food. Local food can cost the same as conventional if you’re willing to value-add and source direct. I’ll likely be preaching that ’til the day I die!
    ACF – agreed, when the raw agricultural product need cost more locally. I think Cheryl was referring to what’s, let’s face it, an ‘artisan’ baked good. As such, I have no problem them asking their price, and would suggest filling one’s larder with ingredients instead. Thankfully John from Gold Forest Grains is there to do that part!

  8. Greg says:

    Megacheers for your ongoing advocacy, Kevin.

  9. Isabelle says:

    Great thoughts – I am loving the downtown market since I live steps away, and I think city hall is an excellent venue. Can’t wait to hear more about how your family buys local!

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