The verdict is in: winter farmersâ€™ markets are a growing trend in North Delta, White Rock and Surrey. The Now spoke with each of the organizers to find out exactly what makes the seasonal markets so popular.
â€œYou look at how the seasons have changed, how weâ€™re in October and how warm the weather is. This has changed the growing seasons,â€ said Helen Fathers, manager of White Rock Farmersâ€™ Market and a councillor in the city. â€œThereâ€™s also different technology that allows farmers to continue to grow produce all year long.â€
With deep community roots stretching nearly a decade, the White Rock location averages upwards of 2,500 visitors during the Sunday affair. Shoppers have, on average, around 40 vendors to choose from, including a few food trucks. Despite an increase in sales over the years, Fathers added the market has struggled to keep food trucks around. â€œI donâ€™t know if itâ€™s the demographic or the time weâ€™re open, but itâ€™s been hard.â€
With newly changed liquor laws made by the municipality, vendors can now sell wine or beer. Fathers said while those businesses have experienced increased cash flow, itâ€™s too early to tell if tweaking the law was a good or a bad thing.
â€œOne could argue it works because those vendors werenâ€™t there before, but if somebodyâ€™s coming in with $40 to spend, and if they buy a bottle of something, that money could have gone to the vegetable farmer.â€
According to Fathers, the economic impact of both summer and winter markets has been overwhelmingly positive for White Rock. In 2013, vendors did almost $2 million in sales and the spillover effect for nearby businesses was just over $1 million.
â€œEven if people donâ€™t come in to purchase anything, a lot of them come to meet their friends. Itâ€™s a real community event,â€ she said.
Meanwhile, Surrey and North Delta are new to the game, having established a winter market only in the last year or two. Organizers, however, are already reaping the rewards.
Anne Janzen with the North Delta market said after averaging around 1,000 patrons and more than 50 vendors last winter, a decision was made to host the event on a weekly basis, rather than every two weeks. â€œPeople were wondering why it wasnâ€™t held more often. It made sense because if youâ€™re selling produce, people donâ€™t shop every 14 days, they do it weekly.â€
Janzen added during the winter season, especially around Christmas time, is â€œwhen everyone comes out to playâ€ and when people start looking for those unique gifts. â€œWe have a lot of ma-and-pa shops that will get a table at the market just to introduce people to their product.â€
She added winter markets have been popping up more because shoppers are very loyal to their vendors. â€œTheyâ€™ll line up first thing at the bakery, or sometimes theyâ€™ll enjoy trying something new,â€ she said.
Emily Atkinson, organizer of the new winter market of Surrey Urban Farmersâ€™ Market, echoed much of the same sentiments.
â€œFor the first time, weâ€™ll have the opportunity to do themed-markets, with Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas,â€ she told the Now. â€œWeâ€™ll have a fair number of crafters so itâ€™ll be a good place for people working in the area to come and buy gifts on their lunch break.â€
Atkinson credited the â€œshop-locallyâ€ trend to factors like freshness. â€œProduce will last longer in your crisper because itâ€™s picked the night before or day of. People are given variety and theyâ€™re able to talk one-on-one with the vendor.â€
But she noted itâ€™s the bigger picture we need look at it, when deciding whether or not to use the alternative â€“ big-box grocery stores.
â€œFarmers who sell at these markets, thatâ€™s where they make their income. It supports local agriculture and continues food security for years to come,â€ she said. â€œI think people are really seeing that and how important it is to support them and local artisans.â€
When asked which season is the busiest, all three organizers agreed summertime provides the most foot traffic and revenue. But its colder counterpart has a lot of potential.
The White Rock winter market will run every Sunday from Oct. 19 to Dec. 14 at the Elks Hall on George Street. Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
North Delta officially launched its market last Sunday (Sept. 28) at Sunbury Hall on Dunlop Road. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Surrey winter market starts Oct. 29 and will be held every second Wednesday at city hall, between 12 and 4 p.m., and will wrap up in May.