Comox Valley Farmers’ Market feeling squeezed for space

The Comox Valley Farmers’ Market is feeling the squeeze at the Exhibition Grounds.

For two consecutive years, CVFM general manager Twila Skinner said booking requests have been denied without consultation, and the market has been automatically displaced to the Comox Valley Sports Centre. She is concerned it will continue to happen.

“With only having 27 weeks outside at the exhibition grounds, if it happens multiple times, it affects vendors in a big way,” Skinner said in a presentation Nov. 5 at regional district committee of the whole. “For vendors, this is their livelihood, and a decrease in 25-40 per cent (of sales) is significant for them.”

Moving sites brings parking issues and a lower number of customers, added Skinner, who feels one group should not automatically be displaced over another.

She asked the committee about protocols to deal with multiple events that use the same spot at the same time.

“What gives one user group preference over another? Why are there no attempts to make something work between all parties.”

Skinner notes the CVFM represents a significant economic and social benefit to the Valley. Along with the year-round, Saturday market, it operates seasonal markets Sundays in Cumberland and Wednesdays in downtown Courtenay.

“The bounty of food available year-round is enjoyed by several thousands of patrons. We contribute over $2.5 million annually to the Comox Valley economy. Farmers’ markets are only gaining popularity and strength, and the numbers will only increase going forward.”

The market is asking the CVRD to facilitate conversations, and to collaborate with groups that have conflicts with dates and locations to reach a reasonable solution – which might, in the end, mean the market is displaced as other events continue to grow.

“We need to minimize the impacts as much as possible,” Skinner said.

The committee asked for a staff report outlining rental arrangements for the fairgrounds.

Area C director Edwin Grieve questions how the district can maintain this function without much money coming its way.

He notes that Vancouver Island Music Fest is requesting a waiving of fees. He also notes a desire to install washrooms and more hydro, even though the CVRD has yet to pay off its long-term debt from the last batch installed. He feels the committee needs more than a cursory report.

“We have to look into how we’re going to grow this site properly,” Grieve said.

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