Farmers in the Kootenay-Boundary region have had a challenging, dynamic market season this year due to increased COVID-19 restrictions, fluctuation of travel and differing patterns of shopping. Farmers throughout the region saw varying levels of product demand and visitation this season throughout the market circuit. We heard from farmers in Creston and the East Kootenay about this year’s season.
Here are a few updates from the farmers themselves:
Lin Egan of Edible Acres in Windermere, shared a few thoughts about the challenges of the 2020 Farmer’s Market season in the East Kootenays: “It was a combination of things: we changed the way we displayed our vegetables so that customers were not handling anything, less people attending the market, tourists arriving in the valley with their food supplies already on hand and more locals gardening,” says Lin. Due to an unanticipated season of lower demand, Edible Acres experienced wastage of perishable stock. After a season of transitions, Edible Acres is preparing for next year’s markets. “Moving forward, we are trying to envision what the next season will be like for the ‘farmers’ at the Farmer’s Market,” says Lin.
Laura Francis, of Cartwheel Farm in Creston, discussed “a notable increase in demand.” Additionally, weekly deliveries from the certified organic farm were more popular than previous years. “It seemed as though several factors came together to increase per-customer Farmer’s Market sales,” says Laura. “These included people being more focused about shopping to have food for the week (over socializing) – especially early in the season, more customers paying by card over cash, and a changed flow for us which involved customers working with one of us to fill a basket and then check out.” Ultimately, the farm was able to work within COVID restrictions by closing public access and accessing grant opportunities. Laura encourages those interested in a CSA box to apply early in 2021 so that the farm can anticipate stock, as well as to continue working with local grocers to overcome barriers to providing products to grocery stores.
3 Crow Farm
Chris Kimber of 3 Crow Farm found that product demand during this Farmer’s Market season was relatively the same as other years. This season, 3 Crow Farm dealt with reduced income in May and June due to market closures, which ultimately shifted harvesting cycles out of sync. Until mid-July, Chris found that restaurant demand was significantly lower than previous seasons. Chris noticed a reduction in demand at the Cranbrook Farmer’s Market, which he says is mostly locals, but still sold out of products. Chris sums up his challenges this year: “I am product constrained, not sales constrained.”
Rick Tegart, of Tegart Farming in Edgewater, noticed an increase in demand for local food. Despite increased regulations at Farmer’s Markets, Tegart Farming did not have to dramatically modify their workflow. “Other than some changes in how our products were packaged for sale at the Farmer’s Markets, we had no challenges as a results of COVID,” says Rick. For those wanting to support local agriculture in the winter and fall, residents of the region are able to purchase products via farm gate and shopping online.
Remember to catch the Cranbrook Farmer’s Market October 3rd & 10th from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and the Nelson Farmer’s Market until October 31st.
Thank you, farmers for all of your hard work in this challenging and strange season. Here’s to bountiful and abundant seasons ahead!
If you are a farmer and you’d like to share details of your market season, reach out to Kylie at [email protected].