Wylie Bystedt (left), board chair, BC Association of Farmers’ Markets and presents Comox Valley Farmers’ Market general manager Twila Skinner, with the banner for Best Contribution in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion among farmers markets across B.C. Photo by Heather O’Hara

Wylie Bystedt (left), board chair, BC Association of Farmers’ Markets and presents Comox Valley Farmers’ Market general manager Twila Skinner, with the banner for Best Contribution in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion among farmers markets across B.C. Photo by Heather O’Hara

Comox Valley Farmers’ Market wins provincial award for equity, diversity, inclusion

Comox Valley Farmers’ Market has been recognized for its initiatives to improve diversity, winning “Best Contribution to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” among farmers markets across B.C.

The award was presented to Comox Valley Farmers’ Market at the annual BC Farmers’ Market Conference, in New Westminster from Nov. 3-5.

The award recognizes the important efforts of the market team, which became committed to acting to increasing equity, diversity, and inclusion in 2021. Among these, was the decision to update its logo of 30 years, replacing the original ‘market man’ logo with a gender-neutral logo that represented the variety of products available at the market. Name tags were introduced for vendors and market staff, including the new logo, relevant pronouns, and a land acknowledgment. An official equity, diversity, inclusion and reconciliation committee was established, comprising market vendors and board directors, so that the team could begin exploring day-to-day administration and logistics, market policies and membership regulations, to inform next steps to improve the market.

Following the deep dive into current operations, an equity, diversity, inclusion and reconciliation policy was created, which is now part of the vendor application process and must be reviewed and agreed by businesses who wish to sell at the market.

“Our organization has been working towards being a more inclusive and diverse environment for our staff, vendors, and customers,” said Kimberley Allan, board president and owner/operator Kimberley’s Kitchen and Gather Farm and Kitchen. “We recognize that there is work to be done on the path of reconciliation and building our relationship with K’ómoks First Nation. It is through this lens that we make decisions and serve our community.”

The new policy aims to increase accessibility for businesses from marginalized or under-represented communities, who wish to sell at the market and be part of the community. Helping to reduce barriers for individuals and groups is a core focus for the market team, which has already taken tangible steps to help improve accessibility by creating non-electronic methods for potential vendors to apply to sell at the market, working with the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program to ensure that participants who are not able to make it to the market can still benefit from the program, and advocating for regular bus service on market days.

“Comox Valley Farmers’ Market has demonstrated great initiative and commitment to equity and inclusion at their farmers market,” said Heather O’Hara, executive director at the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets. “Our organization has embarked on its own journey centred in equity, justice and decolonization, as have many of our member farmers markets. Increasing greater access to farmers markets in local communities and embracing more diversity is critical to dismantling barriers. Comox Valley market organizers are change makers and their actions will inspire other markets across B.C.”

In 2023, Comox Valley Farmers’ Market will continue its work, with plans to launch a business incubator program for new businesses, as well as maintaining its partnership with LUSH Valley, whereby fresh fruit and vegetables leftover at the end of the market day are collected and distributed to BC Housing’s Washington Inn, student and food bank recipients and members of the K’ómoks First Nation.

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