Farm­ers’ mar­kets need fresh ideas

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Condos - RICHARD WHITE

Ilove a good de­bate — like the one cur­rently tak­ing place re­gard­ing the logic of the Cal­gary Farm­ers’ Mar­ket re­lo­cat­ing to Black­foot Trail near Her­itage Drive, where there is no transit ser­vice.

The de­bate al­ways leads to some­one lament­ing about why don’t we have a per­ma­nent down­town or in­ner-city farm­ers’ mar­ket that’s sup­ported by the city.

Van­cou­ver has one, Ed­mon­ton has one, Saska­toon has one — why not Cal­gary? I don’t buy into the the­ory that we have to have ev­ery­thing other cities have.

First off, the Cal­gary Farm­ers’ Mar­ket is not a true farm­ers’ mar­ket. Only about half of the ven­dors are farm­ers.

C MFor other Richard White col­umns, visit our web­site un­der the head­ing: ‘More News and Views.’

It is as much a food court and craft mar­ket as a true farm­ers’ mar­ket.

I also don’t buy the ar­gu­ment that the city should be sup­port­ing a farm­ers’ mar­ket be­cause it con­nects con­sumers with pro­duc­ers and will lead to a stronger sus­tain­able food pol­icy.

It’s a nice, al­tru­is­tic idea, but I don’t think the city should be in the be­hav­iour mod­i­fi­ca­tion busi­ness. As Jeremy Klaszus re­cently pointed out in the Cal­gary Her­ald, other cities sub­si­dize their ma­jor mar­kets.

But in Cal­gary’s case, if we were to do that, we would have to sub­si­dize not only the Cal­gary Farm­ers’ Mar­ket, but also the Cross­roads Mar­ket and Kings­land Mar­ket be­cause they have a sim­i­lar busi­ness model.

I re­call one letter to the edi­tor in the Her­ald ask­ing about why there’s all the me­dia fuss over the Cal­gary Farm­ers’ Mar­ket, as it’s not the city’s only farmer’s mar­ket — good point.

Rather than im­i­tate what other cities are cur­rently do­ing or look­ing to the past, I say let’s look to the fu­ture and de­velop a new Cal­gary model for farm­ers’ mar­kets. I pro­pose that in­stead of a ma­jor down­town mar­ket that re­quires Calgarians to drive across town to get to it, we de­velop more mod­est, year­round farmer/food pro­duc­eronly mar­kets in each quad­rant of the city (all three cur­rent ma­jor farmer’s mar­kets are cur­rently in the south). Big­ger is not al­ways bet­ter. There are sev­eral farm­ers’ mar­kets that sprout up in and around Cal­gary dur­ing the out­door mar­ket sea­son from June to early Oc­to­ber.

The Hill­hurst Com­mu­nity Cen­tre Mar­ket could be used as a model be­cause it uses an ex­ist­ing park­ing lot to host 15 to 20 food pro­ducer ven­dors ev­ery Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon/early evening in the sum­mer.

I ex­pect this model could be du­pli­cated at more com­mu­nity cen­tres around the city, or per­haps at school park­ing lots and fields that sit empty on Satur­days and Sun­days.

Rather than build new struc­tures, let’s look at how we can bet­ter use ex­ist­ing pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties.

The ques­tion then is what do we do in the win­ter when these neigh­bour­hood mar­kets have to go in­doors?

My rec­om­men­da­tion is that all or most of these same places could also be used in the win­ter.

The Hill­hurst Sun­day Flea Mar­ket would ben­e­fit from be­ing ex­panded to in­clude a win­ter farm­ers’ mar­ket com­po­nent.

There must be one or two com­mu­nity cen­tre halls or schools gyms in each quad­rant of the city that could ac­com­mo­date 10 to 15 lo­cal week­end food ven­dors in the win­ter to sell root veg­eta­bles and other pro­duce. Let’s re­use and re­ju­ve­nate our com­mu­nity cen­tres and schools by con­vert­ing them into week­end mar­kets.

I also ex­pect these sites could be sites for com­mu­nity gar­dens such as the case in Kil­lar­ney, mak­ing the link with ur­ban agri­cul­ture even stronger.

Ul­ti­mately, I en­vi­sion the in­cor­po­ra­tion of a farm­ers’ mar­ket area into all of our ma­jor re­cre­ation cen­tres.

They are the new civic gather­ing places for a sub­ur­ban, fam­ily, recre­ational-ori­ented city like Cal­gary. Do we re­ally want one large cen­tral farmer’s mar­ket that forces peo­ple to make a spe­cial trip (drive a ve­hi­cle or take transit) to get there?

Why not de­sign our city to al­low tem­po­rary and per­ma­nent bou­tique farmer’s mar­kets that are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to where the peo­ple live, shop and play — in other words, in the sub­urbs.

Let’s be in­no­va­tive, not im­i­ta­tive.

Cal­gary Her­ald Archive

A ven­dor serves a sam­ple at the Cal­gary Farm­ers’ Mar­ket.

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