Thursday, October 17, 2013

Supporting Farmers Markets and local agriculture

The South of Fraser is home to some of the best farmland in the province; it is one of the few places in the world where you can locally source everything you need for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At the same time, there is increasing pressure to pave over this valuable farmland with urban sprawl. This is why it is important that we have a strong Regional Growth Strategy and regional government that will stand up when municipalities try to allow develop on farmland. You can read about Metro Vancouver's latest efforts to block the Township of Langley from allowing development on farmland in the Vancouver Sun.

Beside strong regional and provincial protection of farmland, supporting local farmers by buying local is also key to ensuring the long-term success of agriculture in the South of Fraser. I received the following press release and thought I'd share it. It is about the new winter Milner Village Farmers Market and Langley Community Farmers Market. The good news is that farmers markets sales have increase from $46 million in 2006 to $114 million last year in BC. People seem to be supporting local agricultural in BC.

Langley Tops list of Growing Farmers Market Communities

Langley, BC – Langley is a strong reflection of the increasing sales trend coming from farmers markets in communities across the province for two reasons, says a Lower Mainland market manager, including greater choice and more first time visitors.

“Here in B.C., we know overall sales from farmers market activity has increased 150 percent,” Evelyne Mikusch points out. That’s an astounding $67 million expansion in “only in six short years.”

Mikusch and a partner ran two markets in Surrey this summer as a member of The British Columbia Association of Farmers Markets. When that well-established non-profit partnered with Dr. David Connell of the University of Northern British Columbia last year, they were able to track market sales in B.C. overall.

In 2006, provincial sales totals came to $46 million. That jumped to $113 million last year.

“If you’re not farmers market shopping, you should be,” Mikusch concludes. She is busy getting ready to open Milner Village Winter Market for eight weeks of Saturday seasonal food and d├ęcor on October 26th. The antique red barn has been a hub of winter market activity for three years, successfully combining nursery events at the massive Darvonda Nurseries with food from local growers.

“Our winter market at Milner features wreath-making workshops and Greenhouse Poinsettia Tours.”

Just a few minutes’ drive away, the Langley Community Farmers Market will open for winter at the Eureka Masonic Hall. With more markets to choose from this winter, Mikusch is gearing up to offer a strong selection of winter crops, all the way through November, and right through to the beginning of December, if the weather cooperates. She is confident Langley is a community ripe for more farmers market shopping.

“Last year, more people in Langley made the decision to go to a market for the first time than anywhere else.”

When shoppers were surveyed by Connell and team in 33 markets across B.C., Langley topped the list for first time visitors at their market at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. About a quarter of shoppers there were market virgins.

“One of the biggest incentives for everyone involved in this trend is that farmers market shopping is healthy, local and depends on the community coming together. Of course it’s seeing an increase!”

The market study looked at some of the reasons business is booming, and increased number of locations topped the list. In Langley, the trend for more will be put to the test this winter with two market locations. If Connell’s study is an indication, almost a thousand people a day attend Langley farmers markets. The survey estimated economic benefit in the community each year to be around $420,000.

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