If you consulted the BC Association of Farmers Markets Marketfinder, you might be forgiven for thinking there are only two farmers markets in Victoria. We visited a couple of off-the-list markets last Saturday, and there are many more besides.
It’s another one of those situations of fragmentation I guess; we are over-supplied with information and have no way to concentrate people’s attention on one source. What is the authoritative source of current information about farmers markets? We just don’t have one place to look anymore. In little old Victoria we have two print phone books now, as well as multiple online directories, and where directories are concerned, authority seems to change as swiftly as technology itself . Choosing a directory so people can find your business is a nightmare. Farmers market administrators would have to work out which information sources to subscribe to and then keep updated; prospective customers come from all kinds of backgrounds and are seeking the markets for all kinds of reasons, so will be looking in all different directions. Phew. Information overload already. Little wonder many simply rely on their own websites. No: make that blogs… No: Facebook… No: Twitter… No: iPad apps… No: Groupon. No: ..?!
Anyway. The listings include Moss Street, of course, and Oaklands – which I’ve never heard of but seems to be a Thursday community market. But there are in fact a number of others absent from its listings, who presumably simply don’t belong to the organization. The Victoria Downtown Public Market struggled on through the winter – its meat (Terra Nossa) and produce stands were always thronged but attendance looked poor to me in the cold months; I haven’t been downtown much so haven’t seen how it is this summer, or whether the Island Chefs Collaborative market is running competition for it in Bastion Square.
It’s time for fresh produce at last at last. And there are lots of tomatoes to be had, despite the cool start to the summer. Those with greenhouse space are a month or two ahead of me. Sun Trio Farm had a good variety of plum sized tomatoes of many colours.
Given this long cool year we’ve had, it’s early for it, though even so, later in the day I encountered at least one farmer who was selling fresh garlic, but Golden Maples Farm had a great selection from last year. And nicely displayed too. They were labelled Purple Stripe and Metechi, but from what I read, Metechi is a kind of Purple Stripe; there are hundreds of varieties of garlic and all I can safely say about what’s in my garden is that I’m growing both hard and soft neck varieties and they haven’t died yet, so I’m hopeful that a harvest is still in my future. Anyway… these ones looked good.
The bread seller at James Bay has beautiful looking loaves. Not cheap – many clocking in around $8 or $10 a loaf, but brisk sellers: he was down to a couple of loaves when we passed by later that day.
Another Saturday market not on the BCAFM list was the North Saanich Farmers Market, run by the North Saanich Food for the Future Society (“dedicated to supporting farms and farmers, and further developing the agricultural capacity of the district.”). It’s another small neighbourly market with a regular clientele and – like James Bay – musical accompaniment. It seems to be well appreciated by the marketgoers too: things really do run out near the end of its three hour day.
There are more missing from the listings. From a food-shopper’s point of view, the risk that farmers markets run as they mature is in evolving into crafts markets, but that seems to happen to many of them. The farmers have to weigh time away from the fields against sales, and a great many of them (thanks in large part to the long-running Island Farm Fresh directory) have farmgate or direct sales as well as connections to retailers and restaurants. Moss Street has avoided this by keeping the crafts and food vendors physically separate, and the vendors are attuned to consumer trends: organic and gluten-free foods are the mainstay. It’s been a while since I went to the Saanich Fairgrounds, to the market that for a while seemed to be the only show in town (now known as the Peninsula Country Market), but it looks from the vendor list to have lagged a bit on farmer presence; and the last time I was at the Thursday evening Sidney Summer Market it was thoroughly mobbed, but had almost no produce stands.