The Whistler Farmers' Market continues its steady growth with yet another record number of vendors lined up for this summer. The popular Sunday market kicked off this week with a handpicked selection of craftmakers, jewelers and food vendors parked in the Upper Village. This summer will see a record 128 vendors from across the region cycle through.
"We stretch just a little bit farther every year," explained market manager Chris Quinlan.
And although a cold and wet spring prevented participating farms from setting up shop at this week's market, Quinlan said shoppers can expect some amazing produce from Pemberton to Lillooet to be available in the coming weeks. Fortunately, there was plenty of other vendors on display Sunday, including a batch of returning food vendors — crowd favourites The Schnitzel Shack and The Pie Company, to name a few — along with the anticipated debut of the Amo La Vita food truck, serving up authentic, hand-rolled pasta just like Nonna used to make.
"That really meets our mandate of trying to promote regionally produced goods and services," Quinlan added. "The market just keeps getting better and the bar keeps getting pushed higher every year."
Kara McMaster of the paleo-focused Caveman Grocer spoke about the value of getting up close and personal with customers at the market.
"It gives us a chance to get in front of our actual customer," she said. "Because we're an online business, we never actually get that face-to-face interaction with our customers."
McMaster, who also serves on the market board, is hopeful the Wednesday evening markets, which run through July and August, build up some momentum with Whistler's local set.
"I think the locals really need to know about the Wednesday market because it's a really great opportunity to beat the crowds and meet who is making and producing your food," she said.
Quinlan said the Wednesday markets would be a particular focus for organizers this year, with up to 40 vendors expected on busy weeks.
"We wanted to do a food focus because we were hearing from a lot of our local customers who wanted to be able to get something in the middle of the week just because Sundays are so busy. That was the reason for starting the Wednesday market," he said. "(But now) we've built enough capacity where we can get to the point we are this year, where we've got solid, substantial farms being there, on top of the food side of it with a bit of artisan (vendors) sprinkled in as well."
The market's growing popularity has also allowed organizers to put more emphasis on their social mandate in recent years. Beyond earmarking $10,000 a year for local charities, the market also participates in a provincial program that grants coupons to low-income families to use at farmers' markets.
"It goes to educating young families, pregnant women, seniors, people at risk for nutritional deficiencies," Quinlan said. "And they actually have to take part in a food nutritional awareness course, so they learn the value of produce versus spending $20 on a pizza.
"It definitely goes further beyond just putting on a market on Sundays and Wednesdays."
The Whistler Farmers' Market returns to the Upper Village this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit whistlerfarmersmarket.org.