After two summer seasons at Braefoot Park the Sunday Saanich Farmers’ Market will not return for 2019.
Co-organizer Shawn Newby, the president of Saanich Community Association Network, released the bad news in an email to vendors, volunteers and others on Sunday. Newby co-founded the market with former SCAN president Marsha Henderson for the 2017 summer market season.
Newby said that the growth needed after two years was insufficient to carry on.
“We were hoping, year after year, to increase vendorship but it was looking like less vendors for 2019, and more specifically, less of the key vendors, food and farmers,” Newby said.
“We surveyed vendors in the fall, and found the food and farmers were finding it tough considering the foot traffic wasn’t always there.”
In 2018 the Sunday market averaged 25 to 30 vendors and crowds between 450 and 650 for each market, with July stronger than August.
“The bottom line was, we needed the vendors to be a successful market, but they didn’t need another market to be successful,” Newby said.
It was disappointing news for Saanich Coun Nathalie Chambers, who lives and works at Madrona Farm. Though Madrona has a daily vegetable stand at its Blenkinsop Road entrance, they also sold goods at the Saanich Farmers’ Market.
“It’s absolutely disappointing,” Chambers said. “We need to find another location for a Saanich farmers’ market, and for these activities. Saanich is in the middle of a draft agricultural plan, we are [not reaching] our agricultural economic potential in Saanich and not having a farmers’ market is a reinforcement [of the challenges].”
Surprisingly, it was the first farmers’ market in the agriculturally-focused District of Saanich, which still doesn’t allow the activities associated with a farmers’ market in its bylaws.
Newby said the average of four or five food and farm vendors each Sunday was below what they needed as farm vendors were the main focus of the market and the driving force for Newby and co-founder Marsha Henderson. The two - Newby of the Quadra Cedar Hill Community Association and Henderson of the Royal Oak Community Association - spent more than a year convincing Saanich to grant a temporary use permit for the market. Acquiring a temporary use permit required a three-stage proposal before council, committee of the whole and a public hearing.
In addition to the food and farm vendors were three or four local craft beer, wine and spirit vendors, while the rest were craft or artisan vendors.
“Ultimately we didn’t want to make it into an artisan craft market,” Newby said.
The temporary use permit also proved limiting as the market could not change time or location without going through the entire application process again.
“We did inquire about moving on to the grass at Braefoot but even that was not permitted,” Newby said.
In a statement, Newby thanked Braefoot Community Association, Saanich mayor, council and staff, the vendors, the customers, and offered to share his experience with anyone interested in applying to start another farmers’ market.