It’s the time of year when the aromas of fresh food draw Burnaby and New Westminster residents to their local farmers markets – but these markets have become more than just a place to buy vegetables and handmade jewelry.
Markets have taken on a multi-faceted role, according to Melissa Maltais, membership and programs manager at the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM).
Not only do markets offer a space for people to come together around food direct from farmers, and act as a tourism boost through hosting free family-friendly events, but they’re also drivers of economic growth, she said, noting markets host and hatch many businesses.
“There’s these different ways that we help these communities all over the province, and it’s a really beautiful way to bring people together and to also boost the economy,” Maltais said.
But fresh foods still add colour and charm to a market.
“I honestly don’t think that there’s anything better than a farmers market on a sunny day with a musician playing,” Maltais said.
“The smell of food, the farmers showing off all the colours that you can see at the market, you’ll see types of food that you’ll never see in a grocery store.”
Burnaby and New Westminster are home to several farmers markets, each with its own blend of events, workshops and community atmosphere.
Burnaby’s artisan farmers market: events, community and more
The Burnaby Artisan Farmers’ Market is a positive and upbeat space, according to the market manager Jennifer Winning.
“Everyone always kind of follows their nose to the vendors,” Winning said.
“We like to be able to bring the community together to provide fresh food from our farmers and from our local vendors, and then provide a space for the community to come out.”
Winning said the market is a great place to support local businesses and farmers, especially after last year’s floods which wiped out crops and poultry flocks.
Access to freshly grown food in an urban area is a huge draw, but visitors can also find a variety of other goods and community connections.
Vendors of jewelry, candles and clothing all come to sell their wares.
Community groups including seniors’ centres and the Stanley Park Ecology Society share displays and information; the Burnaby Community Action Team also attends the Burnaby market once a month to do free naloxone training.
The market hosts a variety of events throughout the summer – on June 25, families can participate in Kids Fest with storybook readings and carnival games.
‘Not only a farmers market’: Nikkei Garden Farmers Market
South of city hall, the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre hosts its own market, the Nikkei Garden Farmers Market.
The market has a mission to share Japanese culture with the community, said Yukiko Nishikawa, the museum’s community engagement coordinator.
Most vendors are Japanese or sell Japanese products.
Many farmers bring in Japanese goods that aren’t readily found in Lower Mainland grocery stores. Shoppers can find in-season vegetables like shishito pepper seedlings, komatsuna leafy greens and herb shiso seedlings.
The market also partners with community organizations to host cultural workshops and other events like calligraphy classes and kimono demonstrations.
And the museum opens its Japanese bookshop during market hours.
“It’s a farmers market, but it’s not only a farmers market,” Nishikawa said.
On June 12, a pop-up designers’ market will feature work and goods by Japanese designers and others. The pop-up is in conjunction with the museum’s current exhibition featuring modern Japanese design.
The market will host events throughout the summer, including a Tanabata celebration (a traditional Japanese holiday based on the legend of the Weaver Princess and the Cowherd Prince) in July.
Picnic in New West style at Tipperary Park
In New Westminster, Tipperary Park is home to the early-evening New West Farmers’ Market.
The market has doubled in size over the last few years, now with about 60 to 70 vendors from all over the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, said market manager Quinn Kliewer.
“You can find a little bit of everything,” Kliewer said, including fresh produce, prepared foods and home décor. There’s live music and food trucks every week – and dogs are welcome.
“It’s a great meeting spot on an afternoon after work. We see a lot of families meeting up there, friends meeting up there,” Kliewer said.
“You can do your shopping and then picnic right there in the park.”
At the end of June, the New West Farmers’ Market starts its children’s programming called the Sprout Club with crafts and activities centred around topics like the environment and local food sources.
Markets in Burnaby and New West will be open throughout the summer. For more farmers market locations throughout the province, check out the BC Farmers’ Market Trail.
Burnaby Artisan Farmers’ Market
When: Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Burnaby City Hall (4949 Canada Way)
Cost: Free admission
Nikkei Garden Farmers Market
When: Second and fourth Sundays of each month, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre (6688 Southoaks Cres.)
Cost: Free admission
New West Farmers’ Market
When: Thursdays, 3-7 p.m.
Where: Tipperary Park (Fourth Street and Royal Avenue)
Cost: Free admission