The Coquitlam Farmers Market is kicking off its 15th season this Sunday, May 8 from 9:00am-1:00pm. It’s the second oldest market in the region, opening just one year after the Vancouver market at Trout Lake. It happens every Sunday, rain or shine, until October 30 in the Dogwood Pavilion parking lot at Winslow and Poirier in Coquitlam [map].
This year the market is also opening a new Friday market at Coquitlam’s Spirit Square [map]. It will run weekly from July 8-September 16, from 4:00-8:00pm. The market also runs a pocket market on Wednesdays from 11:00am-5:00pm at SFU starting May 11 and continuing until the end of October.
While I am a long-time market patron, I decided I wanted to learn a little more, so I got in touch with the market’s Executive Director Tabitha McLoughlin. She told me it all started in 1996 when current market Chair Terri Evans created a proposal as part of a class project at SFU. Once the class was over she decided to present the proposal to the City of Coquitlam, and received their approval. At first there were only a few food vendors, and the market only ran for 12 weeks in the summer. But over time it grew, and today the market operates year-round with its winter market, and more than 40 vendors attend each week.
McLoughlin said that the farmers market society has become part of a regional food system, focused on local and sustainable food. It’s also part of the larger community of farmers markets as part of the BC Association of Farmers Markets. The growth of the Coquitlam market reflects a larger trend across the province – over the past four years the association has grown from 60-70 markets to almost 100, with more starting all the time.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Locally produced food has a lower carbon footprint than food shipped halfway around the world. Buying local also contributes to the province’s economy, by supporting farmers, food producers and artisans right in our own backyard. When you shop at the market you are supporting a secure and sustainable local food system. You’re also able to talk to the people who grow or prepare your food, and ask them questions about how your food was handled.
McLoughlin told me that during the recession the market performed very well. As people started cooking more at home, she feels they naturally became more interested in where their food comes from. There’s also a growing consumer awareness, thanks to programs like the 100 Mile Challenge and books like The 100 Mile Diet. As local eating pervades our cultural consciousness, farmers markets gain traction.
The Coquitlam market’s tagline is “Make, Bake or Grow”, and that’s reflected in the vendors. Everyone is selling something that they have grown, produced, or crafted themselves. There are approximately equal numbers of farmers and prepared food vendors each week, and a smaller numbers of artisans selling handcrafts. This is definitely not a craft fair, but you can find some fabulous soaps, hand-dyed yarn or jewelry.
When you go to the market bring cash, because most vendors don’t accept other forms of payment. Bring your reusable bags and give yourself some time to explore. Shopping at a farmers market isn’t about getting in and out as quickly as possible, it’s about experiencing local food, chatting with farmers and meeting your neighbours. There’s live music, children’s activities and special events throughout the season.
McLoughlin told me that they’re cooking up something special to celebrate the 15th season, but they’re not ready to make any announcements yet, so you’ll just have to stay tuned. In the meantime, head down to the market and see what our region is producing!
This post was written by Amber Strocel, who contributes to TheV3H.com, a blog that highlights news and events in and around Port Moody, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam. You can also catch up with Amber’s musings on life and parenting at Strocel.com, or find out about her online class on living with intention at Crafting my Life.