A cloud of locally produced controversy has already begun to overshadow Invermere’s Farmers Market three months before vendors are scheduled to begin setting up stalls.
Market organizers are waiting on an April 9th decision by Invermere council to find out if their request to keep the Farmers’ Market at its current location near Gerry’s Gelati on 12th Street and 7th Avenue will be accepted. The idea of moving the market to the main strip on 7th Avenue was put to the district by the Invermere Business Committee (IBC) last spring.
“It is such an incredible part of our community and we feel that it is sitting on a backstreet corner,” said IBC chair Alita Bentley. “Tourism-wise, it is not great that visitors have to step over potholes on that back strip. We would love to see the market become front and centre because it is such an incredible asset and phenomenal for our community.”
Although moving the popular bazaar has been celebrated by storefront businesses in the downtown core, vendors are less than thrilled.
“We follow the make, bake and grow guidelines of the Farmers Market Institute,” said market organizer Julia Oaks. “As soon as we put our booths on main street, other stores can put their stuff outside and the market loses its make, bake and grow requirement.”
In addition to problems arising over handmade parameters — which storefront shops with sidewalk sale racks will not have to conform to — Ms. Oaks has heard concerns from vendors over parking, organization and security at the new location. The main street location offers little room for vehicles, which represents a problem for 85 per cent of vendors, who have to move heavy products or coolers full of produce for their stalls, she said.
The new location will also represent an additional security risk because the backsides of many booths will be accessible to the public.
“If you are out front talking to a customer, anything personal behind your booth is open,” Ms. Oaks said. “I have done surveys with vendors and between 20 to 25 per cent say they wouldn’t be interested in coming back after the move.”
In addition to the fraction of vendors likely not to return if the decision to move is brought forward, 80 per cent of operators are unhappy with the premise of relocating, she said.
The concerns of Farmers’ Market vendors are nothing that can’t be overcome with a little teamwork, which has been missing from the dialogue since the controversy began, said Ms. Bentley.
“I think the main resolution would be to actually have a working relationship,” she said. “I would love to see open and positive communication, which seems to have eluded us to this point.”
She thinks that with strategic planning and input from both the brick and mortar business community and the Farmers’ Market, street vendors and storefronts will be able to offer an unbeatable consumer experience.
“We are in a community that is suffering deeply from the recession and maybe on the way out of it, but we all need to work together as a team and not only this community, but the entire valley,” she told The Valley Echo.
Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft and council have already heard the concerns of Ms. Oaks during a recent working meeting outlining the concerns of market vendors.
“I think that some members of council, who were open and interested in the idea of having the market move on to 7th Avenue, heard some facts and information about why that raises concerns for Julia and market organizers,” Mayor Taft said. “One of the realities that council became aware of and have to consider is that she (Ms. Oaks) has secured a second location outside of Invermere if we were to force a move that she doesn’t want.”