By Steve Hubrecht
steve@columbiavalleypioneer.com

The Agri-Park Farmers’ Market at the crossroads will open next week, for what organizers are hoping will be its biggest and best season yet.

This summer will be the sixth season of operation for the popular market, which is held each Wednesday afternoon and evening from May through September. The fun starts next Wednesday, May 18.

Several changes are afoot this year, Market Manager Anne Rose told the Pioneer. Chief among those changes are the new hours, which will see the market start earlier on Wednesday afternoons — at 3 p.m. — and finish earlier in the evening — at 6:30 p.m. It’s a big shift from the market’s traditional time slot of 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

“There just wasn’t much happening in that last hour, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.,” Rose told the Pioneer. “In talking with vendors, everybody seemed happy with the idea of moving the time forward.”

The 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. time slot is sure to make the Agri-Park market appeal to people who are leaving work or picking up their kids from school and who want to grab some produce to cook with on their way home. Although the hours are earlier, the market will remain on Wednesdays, where it does not conflict with any of the many other farmers’ markets in the Columbia Valley, most of which fall on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

The Agri-Park began in 2017, set up on land owned by the Windermere District Farmers’ Institute (WDFI) and is different than most of the Columbia Valley farmers’ market, not only because of its mid-week time slot, but because it is the only one that has a membership with the BC. Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM). This membership comes with strict regulations — for instance, 51 per cent of the market goods must be food, and there cannot be any out-of-province vendors — which contribute to making the Agri-Park market smaller than the others.

As Rose explained, however, that’s just fine with the Agri-Park market vendors.

“The WDFI was keen to promote local food and local farmers. It really is the only farmers’ market that is primarily all about local food, instead of being part-farmers’ market part-tourist market,” said Rose. “We are very specifically a ‘make it, bake it or grow it’ market…That makes a really nice feeling. Everybody involved with the market gets along very well with each other. Our vendors always say how much they really enjoy the Agri-Park market.”

The range of goods on offer is considerable: plenty of fresh produce, baked treats, fresh-grown micro-greens, locally made high-quality chocolate, and much more.

Last year, at peak, the Agri-Park market had 20 vendors, and 350 customers.

That could well expand this season: some of last year’s vendors are unable to return to the Agri-Park market this year, but Rose has recruited 10 new vendors. In total, she estimates there will be somewhere between 25 and 28 vendors this year, and she’s hoping the customer count will hit new highs too.

The Agri-Park market will have new permanent, park-style washrooms too, thanks to a Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) grant.

To find out more, look up Agri-Park Farmers Market on Facebook.