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Sunday afternoon tradition a White Rock classic

Farmers Market returns to city’s uptown for its 25th season

It’s a classic White Rock event and a Sunday tradition enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

The White Rock Farmer’s Market has returned to the city’s uptown area — but this isn’t just another season, as market manager Patti Oldfield explained.

“It will be our 25th anniversary in June,” she said.

“But we won’t be having the formal celebration until July 28, when there will be a cake-cutting with Mayor Megan Knight.”

That ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. at the White Rock Community Centre adjacent to the market, she said.

Already open for several weeks this year, the market (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Sunday at Johnston Road and Russell Avenue until Oct. 13) has grown exponentially from modest beginnings in 1999.

Formerly held at such venues as the parking lot of the White Rock Elks Club, and at the Kent Street Activity Centre, it has gone from success to success at its current venue, which extends through Miramar Village to the White Rock Community Centre.

Regulars know it’s a great place to browse among some 91 stalls offering everything from fresh farm produce, bakery and specialty treats (with a lot of vegan and gluten free options available), to clothing, jewelry and other pieces by local artisans.

As always, the mantra is that the market features only what vendors have grown, made or baked themselves, rather than reselling other mass-market products.

It’s also a good, family-friendly destination to observe the antics of popular local entertainer Korki the Clown, or enjoy some live music and a relaxed chat with neighbours and friends over coffee, Oldfield agreed.

But there are some changes this year, she noted, after a winter cold snap and other factors that have hit some crop-yields hard.

“Some of our farmers aren’t even bringing vegetables to market — but they are bringing jams and jellies,” she said.

Although two years of COVID put a dent in sales, Oldfield acknowledged, the market sprang back with overall attendance figures of 85,053 in 2022, an average of 3,271 visitors per day.

That more than doubled the 35,273 visits the market had in 2011 — and last year, attendance was even better.

“We had 95,594, which is up more than 10,500 over 2022,” Oldfield said.

“And that’s probably not the full number, as we only count people coming into the main entrance of the market — not coming from other directions.”

Also increasing exponentially are the spin-off business benefits to the community in general from market shoppers, Oldfield said.

In 2006 this was estimated at some $430,000 annually, which by 2012 had grown to some $1.3 million.

In March, a study released by the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets estimated that last year’s market boosted the local economy by some $5.2 million, in addition to $3.5 million in direct sales, with the average shopper spending $43.37 per visit.

READ ALSO: White Rock Farmers’ Market a $5M boon to economy

Looking back over the progress of the White Rock Farmers Market, the contributions of the late Helen Fathers — longtime market manager and city councillor — cannot be overlooked, Oldfield said.

“She established strong roots for the market,” she said. “She brought us into the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets, and she also brought in the nutritional food coupon program (which gives coupons to those having trouble affording groceries).

“She gave a lot to the community, she cared and she was passionate about it,” she said.

“In many ways she was the market,” she said. “I think she would be proud to see how much it has grown.”

The food coupons, distributed by Brella Community Services (for seniors) and Sources Food Bank, were redeemed to the value of $64,611 last year — up some $12, 200 from 2022.

Also returning this year is one of the popular successes of last year, the market’s Junior Entrepreneur Program — a modern take on the traditional ‘lemonade stand’ concept — in which enterprising young people between eight and 18 are given their own stall to market, and profit from, a product of their own creation.

“There were so many positive comments about it last year from the public, and the young people were so enthusiastic — the program is full for all 26 weeks this year,” Oldfield said, adding that, as well as fostering budding creativity in the community, it introduces the Farmers’ Market idea to new generations.

“We don’t charge them for the table — it counts as a community table for us, and we have 13 of them available.”

Another popular feature of the market is the showcase it provides for local musical entertainers (starting at around 10:30 a.m. each Sunday) — this year’s lineup includes such popular performers as Old School, Jana Seale, Anthony Sawada, Token Rhyme, J.D. Miner, Mike Sheeshka, Patricia Lynn Dunphy, Carl Katz, Corey Primus, Barry Wilson, Dennis Peterson, Sue Breton and Graham Strang.

Also helping the market remain strong and vibrant is the addition of community sponsors this year, Oldfield said.

This year’s sponsors are White Rock Hyundai, Century 21 Coastal, Diane Thompson, Heather Atkinson, Pier Law and Mediation, Homelife Benchmark Realty and Tacofino White Rock, she said.

“We really appreciate them — every penny helps a lot,” she added.

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Alex Browne

About the Author: Alex Browne

Alex Browne is a longtime reporter for the Peace Arch News, with particular expertise in arts and entertainment reporting and theatre and music reviews.
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