Local farmers’ market joins BC Association of Farmers’ Market

The Fort St. John Farmers Market is addressing issues some community members have now that vendors can no longer sell-third party products.
The Fort St. John Festival Plaza holds the Farmers’ Market each Saturday from May to October. (Shailynn Foster, Energeticcity.ca)

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Fort St. John Farmers Market is addressing issues some community members have now that vendors can no longer sell-third party products.

During the Fort St. John Farmers’ Market annual general meeting (AGM) in March, Jordan Kealy was voted in as president, and the choice to join the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM) was also on the table.

The local farmers’ market voted in favour of joining the BCAFM, with less than ten people voting against it.

Richelle Nosek, market manager for the Fort St. John Farmers’ Market, said the change brought perks, but one change a few farmers’ market vendors and attendees didn’t like was the new rule of no third-party sellers.

“Unless you 100 per cent make, grow or harvest it yourself, then, unfortunately, we can’t accept it anymore,” Nosek said.

“I would say before we changed, 98 per cent of our vendors were makers, bakers and growers. We only had a couple that were resellers, so it affected them.”

The board wanted to clarify the rules and why they have been implemented after a social media post from a local vendor’s family member gained some traction last week.

Prior to the AGM, Nosek said some vendors had asked why they weren’t part of the BCAFM. 

Before she was part of the Fort St. John Farmers’ Market, Nosek said the decision had been voted down because of the rule, but when it was brought to the table again, the board didn’t know how it would go.

Kealy said he contacted the people that could be affected by the decision to join the BCAFM nearly a month ahead of the meeting.

After the vote, it was about another month while they applied to be part of the association, allowing the affected members some time to adjust to the rule.

She said the transition was a struggle because some of the vendors understood what the board was trying to do.

“We did try and work with certain individuals to try and see if they could move over to the structure so they could stay in the market,” Kealy said.

“Unfortunately, unless all of your products are 100 per cent made, baked, grown or produced yourself, you don’t quality under their guidelines.”

Nosek said the board even questioned the association about grandfather clauses but was told there are zero exceptions.

The issue with selling third-party products is huge corporations back them, and if they’re selling similar products for cheaper than someone who handmade their items, it undercuts the locally created items, said the market manager.

The vendors who make, create or grow their own products have to do their own advertising and taxes, she added.

“Whereas when you get a third party selling, they just have to click buy, order it and then they resell it,” Nosek said.

She said there is a spot for vendors selling third-party products, but the farmers’ market is no longer that place. They even tried to find other markets in the area that would allow the vendors to sell third-party items.

Kealy said some were able to transfer over to the Charlie Lake Market before it shut down.

“We’re hoping that somebody can start another market that can cater to some of the other groups,” Kealy said.

He said if anyone wanted to start a different market, he’d be willing to help. 

Nosek said she understands the frustration but not the anger at the board, as the association’s rules bind them, and they could be kicked out.

“They did bring homemade stuff, but then they’re still handing out flyers or catalogues, and again, that is something we have to stop on the spot,” Nosek said. “We did try, we really tried.”

Vendors who buy supplies elsewhere but create and design a product themselves are still allowed. 

For example, Nosek explained she does pottery and has to buy her supplies from Alberta or the States, but she gets the clay in a brick and still creates it herself.

“[They] put in so much work. [They’re] not ordering out of a catalogue or online. [They] don’t just drop a bunch of money and now has products that [they] have spent endless hours making and creating and dreaming up those things,” Nosek said.

“That’s a farmers’ market. We are here to protect the makers and the bakers and growers.”

Nosek said one of the perks of joining the BCAFM is a coupon program, which they’re working on with the Women’s Resource Society and approximately 20 families.

“We give them coupons, and they can come down to the Farmers’ Market and shop, and then the BC Farmers’ Market association reimburses us. We then reimburse our vendors, so they’re not out any money,” she said. “We’re supplying essentially free food to 20 to 40 families in the city right now.”

Nosek said they had a great turnout on August 12th when they began the coupon program.

The sign posted on the outside of Festival Plaza. (Shailynn Foster, Energeticcity.ca)

“Each family gets a certain amount of coupons, and then they don’t expire until the end of December, so they can hoard them and do one big shop or go every weekend. It’s up to them,” Nosek said.

Another perk is access to grants from the provincial government and different school programs.

“Helping kids be able to look at healthy local products,” Kealy explained.

In northern B.C., 15 Farmers’ Markets are part of the association, including Fort Nelson, Chetwynd and Fort St. John, which are now part of the BC Farmers’ Market Trail.

A map of some of the Farmers’ Markets in northern B.C. (BCAFM)

“We’ll also have to apply for it, but they’ll put up a highway sign saying there is a local farmers’ market,” Nosek said.

Kealy also mentioned the board is always looking for volunteers to help run the market.

He can be contacted at fsjfarmersmarket@gmail.com to volunteer or if anyone wants help to start a new market. Nosek can also be contacted at 778-256-7971 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.

To learn more about the BC Farmers’ Market, visit their website.


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