The Skeena Valley Farmers Market never turns away vendors, even when it looks like there’s too many for the spaces at the weekly market.
The market has about 80 vendors selling everything from locally grown produce to crafts, jewelry and various food.
Even with full-time or permanent vendors, there is room for drop-ins, says farmers market president Norm Frank.
“Quite often we’re able to accommodate all the drop-ins because there’s times when people are going away on holiday or something else is happening,” said Frank.
For example, most of the full-time vendors are farmers so they don’t come for several weeks until their produce is ready to sell.
First priority for spaces is given to people who are selling fresh produce or sometimes baking rather than something else, and the growers don’t have to be farmers, just gardeners, he said.
“We would turn away a drop-in vendor of jewelry and take a vendor selling fruits and vegetables,” he said, about how a choice could be made if needed.
And that makes sense because that’s what farmers market means: fresh and local.
“That’s right. The only [condition] is ‘make it, bake it or grow it,’” said Frank, adding vendors can’t be reselling something or trying to get rid of a garage sale item.
At times, there have been as many as 27 drop-ins on a Saturday, he added. Drop-ins don’t have to be pre-approved – as long as they’re familiar with how things work, they can show up at 7:30 a.m. and wait to see who else shows up.
Maxine Smallwood, the gatekeeper, assigns spots between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. and after the cutoff time of 8:30 a.m., any late full-time vendors are out of luck – their spots are then given away.
If someone doesn’t like their spot and an ideal spot is vacant, a switch can be made.
“That happens every week,” he said.
“People think they’re stuck in a spot that’s not ideal, but only when we’re completely full do they have to have those spots.”
For example, baking vendors might prefer to be on the east side because the sun comes in and heats all their baking or melts the icing if they’re on the west side, said Frank.
The farmers market is also trying to go green which means vendors selling food or baking have to eliminate styrofoam containers and only have cardboard ones.
New this year, the farmers market is becoming part of the Good Food Box and also bringing in a coupon program from BC Association of Farmers Markets to help feed those with a low income.
They will be able to get coupons for fresh vegetables and baking and there’s about 20 families and about six seniors signed up this year.
And contrary to what at least one city councillor thinks, the farmers market is not financed by the city.
“I have to say we are not funded at all by the city. We are on our own and they give us the property but that’s it. We do our own thing,” said Frank.
The Skeena Valley Farmers Market opens every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from May 3 to October 25 at Market Street, the parking lot on the west side of George Little Park between Park Ave. and Davis Ave.