The Cranbrook Farmers Market could have a new home this year if their expression of interest for Mount Baker Park is chosen by the City.
Earlier this year, the City of Cranbrook announced that the Mount Baker RV Campground would not be open for the 2021 season after the contract with a third-party operator expired.
The City put the call out to residents for formal expressions of interest, ultimately seeking ideas for what they should do with the campground.
Jessica Kazemi, Market Manager, explained that herself and the Board of Directors have put forth a formal expression of interest to the City, in hopes that they can relocate to the RV Campground.
The Cranbrook Farmers Market has been operating for 12 years as a non-profit organization. The main location for the market has been on 10th Ave., beside Rotary Park. They close down the street every Saturday during late spring, summer and fall to host the market.
There are plenty of practical reasons why the RV Campground location makes sense for a market, Kazemi says. It’s safer, there’s storage for supplies, a fenced-in dog area, established stalls for vendors – the list goes on.
“This would be a great opportunity for the market and for the community,” Kazemi said, standing beside one of the parking stalls in the park. “It’s a safe area, it’s completely fenced in, there’s no traffic.”
Vendors currently have to drive into the market, drop their stuff off, find parking elsewhere and then set up their stall. It’s a time consuming process, and some farmers have crates upon crates of heavy items. At Baker Park, they could simply just park and set up.
BC Farmers Markets were deemed an essential service by the province last year as the pandemic started to gain steam. There was some contention around whether or not non-food vendors should be able to sell at the market, but Dr. Bonnie Henry and the province announced a few weeks ago that artisans would be allowed to sell at this year’s markets in BC.
Kazemi pointed to COVID-19 protocols that the market already takes, including hand-washing stations and specific traffic patterns. These protocols would be easier to follow in the new location.
Baker RV Park has water access and washrooms, meaning people can easily wash their hands. It also has a clear entrance and exit point, making it easy for volunteers to monitor how many people are in the market at once. It’s also a much larger location, allowing for physical distancing.
Not only is it a safer location, but Board Member Siobhan Staplin says it could bring all kinds of opportunities for the community.
“This would be huge as far as local food security. It’s a tourism driver and an entrepreneurial incubator. So many people get their start at the Farmers Market and having this location would truly open doors,” Staplin said.
Having more space means the potential for more vendors as well, which in turn, creates more fresh, local options for the community.
The Cranbrook Farmers Market sold over $50,000 of fresh produce, meat, eggs and herbs last year through the BC Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon Program (FMNCP).
According to their website, the FMNCP works with community parter organizations, such as food banks, to provide coupons to lower-income families, pregnant women and seniors. Each household enrolled in the program is eligible to receive a minimum of $21 per week in coupons.
In years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the market has also been able to support local musicians through sponsorships and having them play at the markets. Staplin says they will re-start this program as soon as they are allowed to do so.
Both Staplin and Kazemi discussed the plethora of other potential to partner with local restaurants, music festivals and gardeners alike.
“I picture having a community garden on the other side of the park,” Kazemi said, as she pointed to the field across from the campground. “It would be a great learning opportunity and can increase food security. The schools are close by and they could use the garden. There could be a compost area.”
Staplin agreed, adding that they could work with community groups such as JCI Kootenays, or the Fisher Peak Performing Arts Festival.
“Think – Oktoberfest, local beer tasting events, there could be all kinds of opportunities for community festivals and events, once COVID has passed,” said Staplin.
The icing on the cake? The market would need to do virtually nothing in this space to get it ready for opening day.
“We could have the market here tomorrow. Nothing about the park needs to change. And over time, we can make improvements as needed, but right now it’s a perfect opportunity,” Kazemi said. “We’re hopeful that the City will at least consider our expression of interest.”
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