Earlier this month the Williams Lake Farmers Market accepted the market manager of the year award from the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets thanks to the work of co-market managers Jane Bowser and Barb Scharf.
Bowser was born and raised in the Williams Lake area and served as manager for the Williams Lake Farmers’ Market during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Currently, she is enrolled in the horticulture technician program at Olds College in Alberta, though she has since returned home due to COVID-19.
“In 2018 I was asked to take on the market manager role after the previous manager, Karl van de Wijngaard, suddenly passed away. I had been involved with the market for several years as a vendor, but I had not been expecting to end up on the manager-end of things,” Bowser said.
During this time the market was undergoing a lot of changes, including moving venues, so Bowser said it was important to have someone who could organize and oversee the market’s daily management. Bowser said it was a lot of trial and error initially but thanks to the help of vendors and market directors she was able to pull through and came back for a second year in 2019.
“I think the thing that I like most about this job is the camaraderie everyone has. The vendors were always open to my ideas and also gave me plenty of feedback on how to improve the market,” Bowser said. “It is really amazing to be part of this movement that supports local farmers, crafters and artists, and there was so much community going on within our market.”
When it came to being nominated for the award, Bowser said it was a big surprise especially when she and Scharf won it. She said it was something she certainly didn’t do alone but was happy to see the hard work and dedication she and Scharf put into improving the market was recognized at the highest level in B.C.
Bowser said, when asked, the biggest challenge of managing a market remains how to deal with bad weather and make the appropriate judgment calls. Due to its unpredictability, it can easily ruin an otherwise well-planned market so she said you always need to be able to judge if conditions will simply blow over or become a serious hazard.
Overall, she feels the Williams Lake Farmers Market continues, as it has for several decades now, to provide lakecity residents with the chance to connect with farmers and enjoy great local produce.
Scharf, meanwhile, who is Bowser’s mother, has been involved with the market since 1995 and operates Hill Farm Nursery, one of the market’s consistent vendors. Currently, Scharf is also a member of the market’s board of directors and will be serving as market manager again in 2020.
Much like Bowser, Scharf was really surprised they were not only nominated but also won this award, along with the manager of the Victoria Street Market. It was humbling to be recognized, Scharf said, as there was a long list of other managers who were nominated.
“We did put a lot of work into it, it wasn’t a job either Jane or myself had been looking for when we were bundled into it but we were happy to help move the market forward,” Scharf said.
Both Bowser and Scharf said they’re not sure what the market will look like this year due to the evolving COID-19 pandemic. Scharf said the market has been contacted by the BC Centre for Disease Control who say farmer’s markets are considered to be a food/grocery source. As such they will be allowed to continue to operate should they meet certain conditions such as serving food only, setting up sanitation stations, observing assembly rules and getting permission from the local municipality.
While everything is obviously up in the air, assuming the market is allowed to take place this year, Scharf said their first market is scheduled for May 8. More information will be available in the next few weeks on the Market’s Facebook page (Williams Lake Farmers Market) and the Market website, www.williamslakefarmersmarket.com.