Pair make pitch for Saanich farmers market

Saanich community association representatives hope to get a new local market off the ground in 2017

Vice-president Shawn Newby of the Quadra Cedar Hill Community Association and president Marsha Henderson of the Royal Oak Community Association want a Saanich farmers market that is similar to the Thursday night Esquimalt Farmers Market shown here.

As a community with such a rich agricultural heritage, it’s about time Saanich offers its own weekly farmers market, say two community association members.

Shawn Newby is currently the vice-president of the Quadra Cedar Hill Community Association and Marsha Henderson is the president of the Royal Oak Community Association. The two have been working together to organize a Saanich farmers market in the same mould as the successful Esquimalt and Sidney farmers markets. It would start in 2017, and boast community-building features such as live music and a kids activity table and, if possible, be located next to a playground.

“We hope to have a market up and running for next summer, to start small in July and August only, and grow it organically,” said Newby.

He made his point while standing next to Henderson under the 30-degree-sun of the Esquimalt Farmers Market. Sipping a freshly squeezed strawberry lemonade helped.

“Saanich residents leave town to visit other markets in the region,” Henderson said. “We want to create a Saanich farmers market that focuses on local food, and as a place that people can gather, so that Saanich isn’t just a place people are passing through.”

Earlier this year council asked Saanich staff to look at pocket markets but Henderson has since discovered there is a separate definition between ‘pocket’ and ‘farmer’ when it comes to markets.

“A pocket market can be a place where agents sell the food of local farmers whereas we want to maintain that connection between residents, or buyers, and the farmers, as vendors,” Henderson said.

In that regard, Henderson and Newby will look to ask Saanich to amend its bylaws, Henderson said.

“The critical thing is that council and staff have been very supportive to this, but we aren’t rushing it. Also, there is a place for pocket markets, as farmers are always wanting to work seven days a week.”

When the two originally approached council this year Newby suggested a weekly market on the grounds of Reynolds secondary school. But since then, research has shown them there are drawbacks to being on school property.

“For one thing, you can’t have nuts on the premises,” Newby noted. “If you think about Moss Street Market, the vendors selling nut-related products are along the exterior, outside of the school grounds.”

The other drawback is that alcohol is not permitted on school grounds either. New legislation has loosened the rules around beer, wine and spirits at markets. Lighthouse Brewery is currently selling its beer by the 650-millilitre bottle for $5 and a six-pack of cans for $10 at the Esquimalt Farmers Market. On Wednesday nights the Oaklands market has a beer garden.

“We want to have a 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. market so we’re not keen on a beer garden at this point but do want to invite local vendors of all sorts, food, beer and other crafts,” Newby said.

Coun. Fred Haynes was part of the Prospect Lake Community Association from 2011 to 2014 when it ran a farmers market for the month of May and September.

“It’s great that this initiative is happening, I fully support it,” he said. “The key is having that ongoing commitment in place for the long term. There are a lot of things to consider, such as the farmers’ commitment. They have to know they’ll sell the food, because once they bring it to the market, if it doesn’t sell, a lot of it can end up back in the compost.”

In this regard, the proposed Sunday Saanich farmers market is in good stead, Henderson said.

“We will build a board of directors, it will be a non-profit society, and we’ve received positive feedback from many of the other Saanich community associations.