Comox Valley Farmers Market needs more room in winter

The Comox Valley Farmers Market keeps growing. As a result there’s no really suitable place to go in the winter months.

Vickey Brown, market manager, told Courtenay Council last week that the market can’t fit all the vendors into the Native Sons Hall and the overflow has to go outside.

“We’ve outgrown the Native Sons Hall. Fees for the hall continue to increase. We continue to get bumped for other events,” she said.

She asked for council support in relocating the winter market, held Saturdays, to the Florence Filberg Centre.

Brown also asked for the city’s help in finding a central, accessible and more permanent location for the Wednesday downtown market held in the summer.

And she asked the city to provide electricity to the downtown market site, as well as new, permanent directional signage to it.

Brown noted that the farmers market is a “significant economic driver in the valley”, with gross sales last year of $1.419 million.

The market, started 25 years ago, requires that all vendors are selling items grown or produced in the Comox Valley or Strathcona regional districts.

The majority of the vendors come from the City of Courtenay, she said.

Brown said last summer’s ill-fated experiment of moving the Wednesday market up to the top of Fifth Street didn’t work out because of fire regulations preventing them from clustering all the vendors in the middle of the street.

They’re looking this year at having the market on England Avenue in front of the old Thrifty’s store.

Brown said a study conducted by the B.C. Association of Farmers Markets a few years ago showed that people coming to a downtown market generally end up shopping at other stores.

“It’s revenue-generating for other businesses. It always gets more eyes on those businesses,” she said.

Mayor Larry Jangula said, though, that he had received numerous complaints from downtown businesses about the location of last year’s market.

“Sales were down … this is them telling me,” he said.

He suggested that the proposed “agriplex” on the Comox Valley exhibition grounds would be an ideal location for the Farmers Market year-round.

But Brown said transit service on Headquarters Road is sadly lacking on Saturdays.

“We will go where there’s space for us. We would be concerned that our customers would follow us there, and not drawing people into the downtown core of Courtenay,” she said.

Council will deal with Brown’s requests at a future meeting.