The organizer of the Saanich Sunday Farmers’ Market says the second year of the event was on par with the first, but also promises improvements for next year.
“So the second edition is on par with the first edition,” Shawn Newby said Sunday afternoon as the eighth and final market for 2018 closed its gates. “We had a lot of returning regulars, which was a good sign.”
But he also acknowledged that more needs to be done to get the word out.
“We had a lot of people right up to the last 10 minutes here say, ‘It’s my first time here’,” he said. “Either they are just discovering it, or they had been meaning to get here, and they just haven’t until today.”
Newby said he will review figures and talk in detail with all the vendors. “What do they think about next year in going forward. What can we do better? What can we change?”
The Saanich Sunday Farmers’ Market first opened its gates inside the Braefoot Park lacrosse box last year, with eight weekend dates through July and August on the basis of a temporary use permit that will expire next year.
So based on the available evidence, how much appetite among the public does Newby see for the farmers’ market to continue beyond its initial temporary use permit?
“I think there is a strong, loyal base, that really want to see it succeed and want to support it year after year,” he said. “Ironically, there are a lot of vendors who do other markets, even though they know this is slow and just starting off. They really like the culture of this market. They find it to be very friendly [and] very engaging, so they want to see it succeed.”
That said, sales are sales, he said.
“They need to be successful to be able to come back,” said Newby. “So I think if we can just amend it a bit, so that it is more successful in the future, I think it would be great. However, there is a strong loyal base that wants it to come back for many years to come.”
So what would be the most important change needed for next year?
“It would be marketing,” he said. “It would be getting more funds, more sponsorship to get the word out. People who do come really enjoy it. The problem is a chicken-and-egg thing. There needs to be the traffic to get the vendors, but then there [need] to be the vendors to get the traffic.”
While final visitor numbers are still coming in, Newby said the crowds ranged between 450 and 650 for each market, with July stronger than August.
“I’m not sure [why],” said Newby. “I think a lot of vacations happen. A lot of people use August to go away and do other activities.”
As for the smoke-filled skies through parts of August, Newby does not think they played a role in reducing the numbers.
“I don’t think the smoke did,” he said. “I think the heat did. Being so hot, it really tends to keep people indoors.”
Newby said this is an issue for the farmers’ market because it takes place on a tarmac inside a lacrosse box with no obvious sources of shade.
“People get in, they get what they need and they leave,” he said. “They don’t tend to mosey around.”
Newby also used the occasion of the last market to praise the efforts of the small group of volunteers who help to set up the market, and to thank the vendors. Some of the vendors returned the favour. After they had packed up their stand, Krista and Jill Buzzeo presented him with a small window ornament made out of glass.