Farmers’ Markets On The Rise

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As producers prepare for the upcoming farmers’ market season, some organizers are anticipating this year to be busier than ever. Southern Alberta’s largest farmers’ market, at Exhibition Park in Lethbridge, is set to open May 16 and run until October 31.

Doug Kryzanowski, the park’s manager of corporate relations, marketing, events and entertainment, has no doubts that it will continue to attract about 2,000 visitors every Saturday. He says there are 95 to 105 vendors at the indoor market, selling everything from vegetables to meat to crafts.

“I anticipate that this year we will see growth,” says Kryzanowski. “With the economic situation, people are staying closer to home and trying to get the best value for what they can.”

A sign of growth is Lethbridge’s downtown farmers’ market, which opens July 8 and runs every Wednesday from noon to 5 p. m. until August 26. The market began three years ago and there are plans to double its space this year. Currently, there are about 20 vendors and 500 to 600 visitors each week. “We try to keep the markets as close to the ground as possible,” says Kryzanowski, referring to a preference for farm produce rather than crafts and novelties.

Most farmers’ markets in Alberta will open in May, although some of the indoor markets run year round or open earlier in the season. There are 105 farmers’ markets in Alberta approved by the Alberta Farmers’ Market Association.

Executive director Darlene Cavanaugh says while the number of markets remain about the same, those ones have grown in attendance and sales over the past few years. “Farmers’ markets are more popular than ever,” says Cavanaugh. “The main attraction for the visitor seems to be the huge interest in buying local, knowing where their food comes from, and being able to speak to the producer.”

According to “Alternative Agricultural Markets in Alberta,” a recent study by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, called 90 per cent of households indicated they had purchased local food in the past year. Furthermore, since 2004, the average spending per trip to a farmers’ market has increased from $35 to $45. The annual spending per household rose from $317 to $449. Currently, farmers’ markets in Alberta are valued at $380 million.

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