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"Weve only really had a year to put these changes in place, and weve already come a long way. A lot of farmers who stopped coming to these things a few years ago are ready to come back," says Harvey.
Wherever possible, the market organizers will try to limit the amount of duplication among vendors, assuring every farmer and craftsman that they wont have to compete with another farmer or craftsman with the same products to sell. That means being more selective of who gets in.
To make theses decisions, local vendors established a 10-member Market Advisory Board this season with a cross-section of representatives from farming, arts and crafts communities. "Were one step closer to becoming a society, maybe with a board of directors who will make all the decisions for the good of the market and take care of all the little administrative details," says Harvey.
And whats good for the market is generally good for the customer.
"Wed probably say no to another potato farmer," she says. "On the Helmer farm for example, thats what they grow, and the last thing they need at the market is direct competition from another potato farmer. Before we could approve another farmer, wed have to make sure that they dont plan on selling potatoes, too."
By ensuring that every vendor is different, farmers dont feel obligated to lower their prices to compete and customers get a wider variety of products to choose from.
There is a loophole in the "Make, Bake or Grow" guideline that allows farmers to sell produce that doesnt grow within the farmers market region, which in this case is the area between Lions Bay and Lytton. A farmer can sell Okanagan peaches, for example, or cheese from the Island as long as it is through a neighbour or a "friend farm" that is a member of the Whistlers farmers market. The farmer who sells outside products should know everything there is to know about those products.
"Part of the appeal of the farmers market, and one of the reasons were so successful, is the ability for the customer to talk to the farmer who grew the food. They can ask us how it was grown, what kind of season it was, whats the best way to prepare it, and we can answer their questions because we know that food. We planted it, we nourished it, we picked it and we brought it to the market," says Harvey.