Get Your Market On

photo by Abi Carswell

Summer is apparently upon us. You may have your doubts considering the slightly unfavourable weather that we’re battling, but it’s July and that means summer whichever way you look at it. Not only does this warm and wondrous month kick off with Fernie’s Canada Day Celebrations, but it also welcomes the long overdue and much anticipated Fernie Mountain Market. Rotary Park comes alive each Sunday, no longer just a place for those diaper wearing park playing goers, but instead it’s a hive of activity for locals and visitors, whatever their age, to convene and, put quite simply, get their market on.

I met with the two ladies who have been instrumental in the Fernie Mountain Market since its birth, Dawn Deydey and Sandra DaCosta, to hear their story and learn about the big changes that are in the works for this summer.

Where did the idea come from?
It seems that both ladies had the same idea. Friends, but unbeknownst to one another they individually approached the City with one thing in mind – to start a Fernie market. Sandra got the idea from the Salt Spring Island Market, as well as rather astonishingly reminding us that back in 2001, there wasn’t anywhere to get organic produce in Fernie. Dawn saw it as a “sweet spot to make a community connection.” Says Sandra with surprise, “Vendors are calling us!” It seems the seed was planted and it’s growing faster than Jack’s beanstalk.

How were the early years?
Their mission from the start was “to create a venue for local farmers and artists to sell their goods and to improve the variety of products available to the community.” And, growing from as small as three vendors a week back in 2001 to an average of thirty-something in 2010, their dreams have become a reality.

You got the ball rolling, but what now?
As the market has grown, Dawn and Sandra have become unfailing in their support, development and weekly coordinating roles – setting up, collecting fees, putting out signs, appeasing vendor bickers, as well as helping vendors find their feet. Addressing food safety concerns is also a big part of their role, ensuring everyone goes home happy and the market continues. “We basically help vendors figure it out,” so that they can sell produce within safety guidelines but still works for them. A tough task at times.

How has the market helped Fernie?

The market has helped small local businesses in Fernie, as individuals have the ability to use the market as a “test ground” before delving into the world of overheads, a healthy looking profit margin, and the concern of getting customers in the door. And with Dawn and Sandra’s assistance, the market has become “a learning curve” with vendors helping one another.

Who wins the Vendor Long Standing Service Award?
A special mention has to go out to Don from No’s Orchard in Creston, who has been frequenting the Fernie Mountain Market since the start. Not only that, he’s primarily a grower, not a supplier – a desired attribute for any market mandate. In fact I learnt that over 50% of what vendors sell, has to be homemade. “We’d love to see this grow to 100%,” says Sandra, but at this stage, 50% ensures that vendors are worthy of Mountain Market status, whilst market goers aren’t inundated with mass-market imports.

This year brings great changes, what are you hoping to see?
This summer, a number of influential groups in Fernie including the Mountain Market have come together to bring Downtown Fernie to life every Wednesday evening. As part of the Victoria Avenue Summer Initiative, the market will run from 4-8pm in Station Square (downtown by The Arts Station), alongside bands, beer gardens, and then some. The team is looking for creative individuals and volunteers to come forward to help make Wednesday evenings a success, paving the way for years to come.

Primarily they see Wednesday evenings as “an extension of Sunday” while opening up to a different audience – the post work or post biking crowd, ensuring those that generally leave town on a Sunday get to experience the market vibe and buy local, fresh produce mid-week – an all round winner for downtown stores, vendors, locals and Fernie visitors.

I advise you strongly not to miss out this summer, as the Fernie Mountain Market takes Sunday’s and Wednesday evenings by storm. You will not be disappointed and you shan’t go home empty handed.

Fernie's Mountain Market takes place every Sunday, from Canada Day to Labour Day weekend from 10am-2pm in Rotary Park and Wednesday nights in downtown Station Square from 4-8pm. If you’d like to be a part of the action, check out www.mountainmarket.ca or call 250-423-6674.