Submitted by Barb Scharf
Looking back at the season that just wrapped up, 2021 was a very good year for the Williams Lake Farmers’ Market. Vendors were out in full force for the Friday markets, and we had some great new vendors join us. Very popular was Laurie Smith’s brand new Cup’n’Cone ice cream trailer — she always had a lineup.
Our vegetable and meat producers reported that demand was consistently strong and customers continually mentioned how much they appreciated the opportunity to purchase locally-produced food.
As the market association was formed in order to promote and strengthen local farm production and regional “food security,” these farmer success stories and encouraging customer comments tell us that we are succeeding in this goal.
The biggest challenge this year was, of course, trying to keep up with ever-changing COVID-19 protocols. Kudos to all of the vendors and customers for their mostly cheerful (and sometimes resigned!) co-operation in following the latest guidelines from the BC Centre for Disease Control.
At various times throughout the season we had limited entry and customer counting, one-way travel around the market, live music restrictions, seating and dining limitations, increased distancing between vendors, face coverings, enhanced sanitation protocols and social distancing recommendations.
As our vendors and customers are a very diverse bunch with a lot of different philosophies and opinions, it was truly noteworthy that everyone made such an effort to keep things positive and pleasant right through the season.
The market’s “good vibe” was something we were frequently complimented on, and our people were 100 per cent responsible for making that happen despite all of the challenges the various protocols entailed.
Mother Nature was quite kind to us this season, though the midsummer heat wave caused some unique challenges to those with perishable items, in particular during the Tuesday 2 p.m. till 7 p.m. markets which found vendors setting up in the heat of the day.
On the topic of the Tuesday Markets, these will be up for debate this winter, and we will be asking for vendor and customer feedback as to whether we should continue to offer a second weekly market.
Tuesdays were typically much smaller in vendor and customer numbers than the Fridays, but the vendors who did attend reported good sales for all of the food categories, though a more subdued sales experience for artisans and crafters.
An immense and heartfelt “thank you” goes out from the market association on behalf of our vendor-members to everyone who gave us such strong and positive support this year.
This includes all of our wonderful customers and visitors, and of course our musicians and entertainers, volunteer helpers, community group participants, the city of Williams Lake for hosting us and helping us maintain the market space and the Cariboo Regional District for ongoing encouragement and support.
A lot of people come together to make the Farmers’ Market happen — each and every one is appreciated!
Barb Scharf is the market manager and a Cariboo Direct Farm Market Association Committee director