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"People want to know, and we enjoy telling them. Farmers are happier dealing directly with customers than with some buyer for a distributor who could care less."

In these days of factory farms and international trade, we don’t really know all that much about where or how our food was grown. With all the controversy over genetically engineered or modified foods and chemical fertilizers – and the growing public awareness of the overall nutritional value of foods (i.e. fresh verses preserved; organic verses factory farmed) – people are starting to take a greater interest in homegrown products.

There’s also an environmental issue to be considered, says Harvey. "Direct marketing really is the way of the future for farmers. One of the stories we always use to illustrate just how ridiculous our food distribution system really is, is about a truck loading up with tomatoes from the Okanagan and driving down to California. Five days later the same truck returns to the Okanagan loaded up with tomatoes from California. Think of all the fossil fuels that are wasted to gain absolutely nothing."

Many restaurants in the Lower Mainland and Whistler have started to use regional ingredients wherever possible, and chefs are being widely credited with pioneering a whole new style of cooking based on local produce and wildlife. Regional cookbooks have started to hit the shelves and menus around town are often printed daily during the summer as more local produce becomes available. Many local and regional farms deal directly and exclusively with local restaurants, eliminating the middle man altogether.

"It’s amazing to watch chefs walk around the market in their uniforms, buying ingredients they plan to use in that night’s special," says Harvey. "People are blown away."

The market is scheduled to open on June 17 for Father’s Day, and will run every Sunday at 11 a.m. until Thanksgiving weekend (Oct. 7). Special events include a Canada Day festival (July 1), and the "Hops and Crops" festival showcasing local microbreweries (Aug. 4 and 5). They also plan on bringing back a homegrown cooking series, where local chefs are paired with local farmers to put on cooking demonstrations for the crowd – there wasn’t an empty chair at this event last year. On Labour Day weekend (Sept. 1 and 2) Harvey is hoping to host a wine festival featuring regional vintners.

"The idea is to showcase local talent, whether its growing vegetables, making wine, painting pictures, or building furniture," says Harvey. "There are a lot of locals who can really use your support, and their quality is as good as you’ll find anywhere.

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