Vendors lined the George Little Park lot for the first Skeena Valley Farmers Market of the season early May. Margo Peill, left, is the first-ever market manager, there to promote and organize the market for the summer season. Peill says she plans to focus more on food security and help people understand where the food comes from, with an informative booth likely to be set up this summer. Here Peill talks with one of the market directors Luigi Maddalena. (Jackie Lieuwen photo)

From farm to plate to newsprint, a new column on Skeena Valley food

By Margo Peill

Welcome to the first Food Matters column, a bi-monthly column where we’ll explore the richness of Northwest food options, and the people behind them, from farm to market to plate. There’s no more appropriate way to start this series than where the idea took root, the Skeena Valley Farmers Market.

It was hatched, like many things in the northwest, out of a bit of economic interest and a lot of care and desire to improve and support the community of Terrace. In the dead of winter in 1983, long before seeds of the season were sewn, or cherries budded, a group of farmers, producers and interested community members gathered together to discuss the possibility, and plan for a farmers market in the coming season. In the previous year, 1982, there had been a few informal attempts to start to get enough vendors together to create a Farmers Market at the four-way stop. Although these early market days were hit-and- miss, it began to bring producers together and highlight the potential for something bigger. So in the winter of 1983, it was decided: participating farmers would plant more produce with the expectation of selling it throughout the first official season of the Skeena Valley Farmers Market. Even in the early years of the market, all of the approximately dozen vendors, abided by the guideline that everything being sold must be ‘sewn, grown or made’ in Northwest B.C.

In the early years of the market, following that inaugural season, the market continued to grow, weathering through bad growing seasons, economic ups and downs and challenges in Governmental support. In the end it was the community that made the market what it is today. Having the support and power of a strong community helped the Skeena Valley out grow its original Four-way stop location, into the old gravel lot where the ‘Market Estates’ exist today, to its current home on Market Street tucked in next to George Little Park. The Skeena Valley Farmers market, as we know it today, hosts over 70 vendors each week and has become a weekend social staple in the lives of community members of all ages. Each Saturday from May to October, the farmers market features live music by local musicians, a feast of international foods, unique and beautiful crafts, farm fresh eggs and meat, and nourishing produce, grown right here in Northwest B.C.

Many things have changed since that fist market back in 1983, we rely heavily on foods coming from the lower mainland and beyond to feed our families, processed food has found its way into heavily impacting our health and wellbeing, and we can buy almost any treasure imaginable through online shopping. What all of this means is, now, more then ever, we need to support our friends and neighbours, continue to thrive within our own region, empower each other to do whatever we can to use our resources within our local community and continue the legacy, started 35 years ago to share with our community the bounty of all things that we can make, bake and grow right here in Northwest B.C.

The Skeena Valley Farmers Market will be celebrating the 35th Anniversary: 35 Years of local, throughout the month of August. If you have photos, articles or stories you would like to contribute to the celebration display, please phone Margo at 250-631-9631 or email Special thanks to Lynne Christiansen and Margo Hayes for sharing their stories and memories of the Farmers Market.

Margaret Peill is the Skeena Valley Farmers Market Manager with a B.Sc in Health Promotion, working to improve sustainable food systems in Northwest B.C.

Food Matters will appear every second week online and in the community section of the Terrace Standard.

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