Funding Helps Increase Accessibility to Fresh Foods and Supports Farmers

The BC Government announced earlier this year that they would be expanding the Farmer’s Market Coupon Program, which works to connect low-income families with fresh, local food. The province is investing almost $1.6 million this year for the program that will supply weekly coupons valued at $21 for the purchase of locally grown food at farmers’ markets around the province.

This is an important initiative for students, given the unprecedented rate of student hunger in post-secondary students. A recent report by the national campus food organization Meal Exchange showed that nearly half of students surveyed had forgone healthy food to pay for books, tuition fees and rent.

“It helps people come to the market who might not otherwise consider this a place to shop,” Minister of Health Adrian Dix states. “It helps low-income people at a time when we have high inequality in our province and our government has given a focus to poverty reduction.”

The program supports farmers and farmers markets by bringing more customers their way, and provides health benefits by allowing more British Columbians to access whole fruits, vegetables and proteins.

Laura Smit of the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets, which represents more than 145 markets across the province, described the program a “thoughtful and effective initiative” to improve health and support farmers.

“It increases farmer access for over 700 small-scale B.C. farmers and ranchers,” she said. “It keeps the money in their communities and sustains their farms. It is, quite simply, an amazing program with far-reaching benefits.”

From savoring produce at the peak of freshness to meeting the people who grow your food, there are countless reasons to support farmers markets. Here are just a few!

1. Taste Real Flavors

The fruits and vegetables you buy at the farmers market are the freshest and tastiest available. Fruits are allowed to ripen fully in the field and are brought directly to you—no long-distance shipping, no gassing to simulate the ripening process, no sitting for weeks in storage.

2. Support Family Farmers

Family farmers need your support, now that large agribusiness dominates food production in North America. Small family farms have a hard time competing in the food marketplace. Buying directly from farmers gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance in today’s globalized economy.

3. Protect the Environment

Food in North America travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate. All this shipping uses large amounts of natural resources (especially fossil fuels), contributes to pollution, and creates trash with extra packaging. Conventional agriculture also uses many more resources than sustainable agriculture and pollutes water, land, and air with toxic agricultural by-products. Food at the farmers market is transported shorter distances and is generally grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth.

4. Know Where Your Food Comes From

A regular trip to a farmers market is one of the best ways to connect with where your food comes from. Meeting and talking to farmers and food artisans is a great opportunity to learn more about how and where food is produced. CUESA’s seller profiles that hang at the booths give you even more opportunities to learn about the people who work hard to bring you the most delicious and nutritious food around. Profiles, articles about sellers, and a map of farms are also available on this website.

The Cranbrook Market occurs on Saturday throughout the summer and draws many locals, tourists, and local producers

5. Connect with Your Community

Wouldn’t you rather stroll amidst outdoor stalls of fresh produce on a sunny day than roll your cart around a grocery store with artificial lights and piped in music? Coming to the farmers market makes shopping a pleasure rather than a chore. The farmers market is a community hub—a place to meet up with your friends, bring your children, or just get a taste of small-town life in the midst of our wonderful big city. It is also a great way to tap into the local settler history of the Kootenays, given the prevalence of agriculture in rich river valleys.

6. Get to Know Local Artisans

Its not only local food producers that are present at markets. This is a great way to connect with local potters, textile artists, painters, and soap makers. Local artists are important contributors to our local economy and sense of identity in the Kootnenay region.

There are many farmer’s markets that take place around the West Kootenay region. For more information on locations, days, and times, please visit: https://gokootenays.com/farmers-markets/