Organizers of Rossland’s weekly farmers’ market are trying to figure out ways to get the event out of the doldrums.
The 12-year-old Rossland Mountain Market, held every Thursday in the city’s downtown, has seen declining participation by both vendors and shoppers.
The market manager posted to Facebook before last week’s first market of the season, and said they had even contemplated closing the event down.
“Over the past year or so we have started to see less and less support from our wonderful community, and subsequently have started to see a decline in vendors and musicians joining us,” wrote Miche Warwick, on a Rossland community Facebook group. “With fewer and fewer people coming out to support our market, our team considered not running the market at all this year…”
The market even had to cancel a special event — an Earth Day market in April — for lack of interest. It’s the first time in 12 years they’ve had to do that, says Warwick.
“It ends up in a bit of cycle, where the community comes and they want to see a big variety of vendors,” she says. “But when the big vendors aren’t there, they tend to lose interest, so community attendance dwindles.
“At the same time we’re trying to get new vendors, but if the community’s not coming, the vendors aren’t having a good experience and they’re not coming back.”
In the end however, Warwick says they decided to put their faith in Rosslanders to support the event for another year.
“The community is awesome, we have this really consistent group of shoppers that come out, no matter what,” she says. “We’re just trying to build that consistency, to make that group of shoppers that come out ‘no matter what’ a little bit larger.”
Warwick says there are many reasons to support the market.
“Every dollar spent at the farmers’ market directly supports local farmers and small businesses. Our little farmers’ market alone generates more than $250,000 annually in local economic activity — both through our vendors and spin-off shopping at downtown businesses,” she says.
“When you purchase direct from local farmers you are voting with your dollar to support small, local growers which helps to safeguard B.C.’s food shed for generations to come.”
Farmers’ markets are also good for the environment, encouraging local production of food from friends and neighbours.
“It’s also this epic and unique incubator for local business. There are a whole number of local businesses in Rossland that have made their start at the farmers’ market,” adds Warwick. “It’s such a good way for a new business to connect with the community and share their product.”
Despite Warwick’s social media plea, she says the first market of the season wasn’t the big kick-off they hoped it might be.
“It was a good first market. We had a good showing with 15 vendors,” says. “That said, the consensus is it was still a bit slow, to be honest.”
But she says it is early, and there are always busier and slower times throughout the season.
“We’re just hoping it picks up,” she says. “It’s a fun thing to do, kids come to the market, we’re working hard to bring in a good variety, have some good live music, good food to eat and all that stuff, and make it a good thing to do.”
She says they have interest from new vendors who haven’t come to Rossland before, and are trying to build their buyer base.
“We’re trying to come up with ways to get the community to come out, hopefully at the same time the new vendors come, so that community-meets-new-vendors and everybody is happy and it’s a successful market,” she says. “And then the momentum will pick up and continue.”
While they’re not planning extra features to attract crowds of shoppers this year, the market is extending its season, adding two extra weeks this spring, and running to the end of October, instead of shutting down after the first weekend of that month.
They’ll also offer some free tables to attract vendors, and market pass options. They’re contacting other local markets to attract vendors from other towns to try Rossland’s.
“The farmers’ market loves the community of Rossland,” she says. “I hear from the regular vendors how much they love coming to Rossland. And the community itself is so fantastic, people love coming here. It would just be super-awesome to see an influx of community that comes out to the market.
“We’re ready, we’re setting up for the next 23 weeks straight with open arms, waiting for the community,” she says.