A quick look at Special Areas...
Alberta approved farmers’ markets are identifiable to the public by the Sunnygirl logo such as the one in Hanna. “We have more than 130 approved markets serving about 110 communities around the province that are open throughout the summer,” says Eileen Kotowich, farmers’ market specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). “This includes more than 20 markets that operate year round.”
She says Alberta’s farmers’ markets offer a diverse selection of goods.
“What you’ll see in the markets right now are lots of greenhouse bedding plants and vegetables, early season vegetables, and lots of preserves, baking, prepared foods, and other year-round products like meat, eggs and honey.”
Part of the success of farmers’ markets is that consumers want to know where their food comes from and to make that connection with the producers.
“It gives you a feeling of trust when you can look the producer in the eye and talk to them about how they raise their animals, grow their crops or prepare their ready-to-eat foods.”
A minimum of 80% of venders’ products must be produced in Alberta to qualify as an Alberta approved farmers’ market.
The markets will look a little different this year as they incorporate increased protocols and safety measures into their operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vendor stalls and tables are separated within the market, increased cleaning and sanitizing of high touch point surfaces happens during the market. Crowds will be asked to use one entrance and exit so that crowd numbers can be monitored to ensure physical distancing. Customers are being encouraged to shop with purpose so that everyone who wants to attend a market has an opportunity to support their local makers, bakers and growers.
AF introduced a mobile app for both Apple and Android devices a few years ago. This app allows users to easily find any Alberta approved farmers’ markets in their area or around the province, search by day of the week or type of market.
“It is especially important this year that customers check the information online,” she explains. “Some markets have changed location, hours of operation and opening dates for the season in order to better implement the increased safety measures. A few markets have decided to remain closed for the season. We are updating the online information as we receive it so that customers are not disappointed.”
Over 130 Alberta approved farmers’ markets are serving up some of the most nutritious, fresh, local products. Along most highways in Alberta, the Sunnygirl logo lets you know that there is an approved farmers’ market nearby.
Alberta approved farmers’ markets provide direct contact between consumers and producers. Consumers can talk to the person that grew the carrots, raised the chicken, baked the bread, produced the jam or knitted the sweater. Each approved farmers’ market in Alberta is independently operated and therefore reflects the culture of the community.
Farmers’ markets are a popular agritourism attraction in Alberta, providing a great shopping experience in a relaxed, interactive atmosphere. Shoppers spend an average of $70 per farmers’ market visit and the total estimated market value of farmers’ markets was $924 million in 2016. The future for farmers’ markets in Alberta is very bright. Program requirements
An Alberta approved farmers’ market is approved by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and meets the requirements of the program guidelines including:
• sponsorship from a not-for-profit community group, local Chamber of Commerce, municipality or agricultural society or forming their own not-for profit society under the Societies Act
• operating under the direction of an advisory body or board of directors
• at least 80% of vendors are Albertans who make, bake or grow the products they sell; the remaining 20% may sell products that complement the market mix
• operate for at least 10 days per year and for a minimum of 2 hours per market day
• have at least one vendor meeting per year
• have developed a set of rules which govern the operation of the market, and provide those to the Alberta Approved Farmers’ Market Program and all market vendors
• may not sell any used goods or flea market products
• adhere to the administrative requirements of the program Approved farmers’ markets are recognized in Part 3 of the Alberta Public Health Act Food Regulation.
Only Alberta approved farmers’ markets can use the official Sunnygirl mark and can make arrangements to use the Sunnygirl logo on highway signage.
Visit www.sunnygirl.ca to download it or to view an interactive map of Alberta approved farmers’ markets.