The Comox Valley Farmers’ Market Association will step up its fundraising campaign to build a permanent market in Courtenay this year.
It recently made a move by revealing its Peas in a Pod campaign during a Mystery Tour showcasing local food and agriculture in the Valley.
The Mystery Tour was auctioned off at the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society Harvest Banquet last fall as a fundraiser for the permanent market. Gaetane Palardy of Island Gourmet Trails donated her time to run the tour, and she took participants to the Saturday morning farmers’ market on Headquarters Road, as well as stops at the DeeKayTee Farm Market, Natures Way Farm and Blue Moon Winery, Tsolum Farm, Watrin Orchard and Farm Market and Comox Bay Farm — the site of the proposed permanent market.
During lunch at Tria Culinary Studio at Natures Way Farm, Comox Valley Farmers’ Market Association (CVFMA) vice-president Marla Limousin updated the group on the plans for the permanent market.
The CVFMA is hoping to break ground and start building a permanent market at Comox Bay Farm in two or three years, according to Limousin.
“We will be launching our Growing a Legacy campaign called Peas in a Pod,” she said. “It will have different levels of sponsorship — government, big companies, musicians and artists, customers. Through that and through talks with our MLA and MP, we will be looking at building this building. We’re looking at a $2-3 million building that will be multi-purpose for agriculture.”
The concept is being called the Place for Agriculture, and it will provide a year-round venue for showcasing local agricultural products from the Valley.
During the lunch, which was prepared by Purple Onion Delicatessen owner Chris Graham, Limousin announced that Palardy is the first Pea in a Pod for coming forward with the Mystery Tour.
The CVFMA has been talking about creating a permanent market for 10 years, market manager Vickey Brown explained when the group stopped at Comox Bay Farm — the former Farquharson Farms market.
A few years ago, the CVFMA and the Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS) held a community consultation to see what people in the Valley would like to see, and one of the biggest requests was for a permanent farmers’ market with a commercial-grade kitchen, a vending facility for processing, cold storage and perhaps a distribution centre, explained Brown.
Last March, Courtenay council approved the concept for the farm market facility on 2.3 hectares at Comox Bay Farm, which is owned by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC).
The CVFMA will do some design work this year with its membership to come up with a basic indoor building, likely with two arms out the back to provide indoor/outdoor space “so in the summer, when it expands by 20 to 30 vendors, we don’t loose that outdoor feel,” explained Brown.
“For me, one of the biggest benefits of a farmers’ market is bringing people to agriculture and seeing farming,” she said. “This land is a huge benefit to the Valley and a huge benefit to us as land to have access to food and it’s important for us to support these farmers who grow the food.”
At the same time, DUC could do some kind of interpretive centre, noted Brown.
“There are a million ideas, and our job right now is to take all those ideas that came from the consultation and put them into a business plan,” said Brown.
This year, the CVFMA will funnel its vision a little bit and step up its fundraising campaign for the building, she explained.
“We’re going to try to raise the profile quite a bit this year,” she said.
Brown says the man who farms the land has been great and is happy to share the space.
“None of this is farmable,” she said of the 2.3 hectares fronting Comox Road. “It’s all been filled, and the land’s been contaminated. Nobody can farm it anymore, so it might as well be used to promote farming.”