Cultivating Community

It’s Sunday morning at Fernie Mountain Market. The midday summer heat has yet to hit and the grass is still cool with dew from the night. Among the shaded edges of a tree-lined field, booths display fresh local produce and artisanal crafts. Grabbing a coffee and some dumplings, you wave hello to friends as you peruse the farm-fresh offerings. Shopping at a farmers market is not your typical consumer experience.

In a 1971 article written for the Geographical Review, an academic journal for the American Geographical Society, it was predicted that farmers markets were on the “verge of collapse,” “doomed by a changing society” and it was becoming the trend for the vendors to be resellers instead of the actual farmers of the goods. Approximately 340 farmers markets were running in the United States at the time.

The Geographical Review was mistaken. The 21st century brought a major farmers market comeback. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of farmers markets in the United States increased from approximately 3,700 to 8,200. Within the same decade, the number of web searches for farmers markets tripled and the mention of farmers markets within newspaper articles quadrupled.
There are several reasons why farmers markets have become so popular.

In a world where GMOs, pesticides, and hormones are the norms, farmers markets are a healthy alternative to many of the foods found at big box stores. Most local farms use organic practices to grow their produce and raise their livestock in humane environments without the use of added hormones. With the growing trend towards health and wellness, market-goers enjoy meeting the people who grow their food as it fosters trust and a personal sense of pride for taking care of oneself. Plus, the food tastes more vibrant, is picked at its peak ripeness, and you oftentimes find a more interesting variety of offerings. Purple peppers and garlic scapes from Three Crows Farms are a couple local favourites.

Lower environmental impact is another reason consumers choose to visit farmers markets for their grocery needs. Given that most market food is grown fewer than a couple hundred kilometres away, its carbon footprint is significantly lesser than large stores whose goods travel vast distances utilizing an extortionate amount of fossil fuels which cause pollution. The small farms from which market food comes also produce less carbon monoxide than their corporate counterparts and usually avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers which cause further environmental harm.

Another motivation for buyers to shop at local farmers markets is the community. When you shop at a farmers market, you support local businesses and community members. This supportive relationship is not only fostered through a monetary exchange of purchasing goods but via a trade that bonds the two parties based on their shared values of fellowship, health and environmental stewardship that farmers markets stand for.

Farmers markets are feel-good hubs where you obtain healthier, more delicious food that has a lower environmental impact. You see old friends, make new ones and camaraderie between vendor and consumer is created. When picking up your purple peppers and garlic scapes at Fernie Mountain Market, don’t forget what else you are taking home with you.

Fernie Mountain Market opens July 1st at the Fernie Aquatic Centre and runs every Sunday until Labour Day in Rotary Park.