The first year of Saanich Sunday Farmers’ Market is in the books, with organizers already turning their focus to next year.
Perhaps the most significant item on the agenda of co-founders Marsha Henderson and Shawn Newby is the search for a sponsor.
Henderson and Newby said two organizations approached them on the final Sunday of the farmers’ market. A total of three organizations, all with strong ties to the community, have so far expressed interest in sponsoring the market, which operates out of a lacrosse box in Braefoot Park. Both Henderson and Newby, however, are hoping for more to come forward.
A large crowd greeted the first market on July 2, with a steady stream of visitors coming on Sundays until the final market on Aug. 27. While organizers had no way of tracking how many visitors each of the nine markets attracted on average, they drew a consistent crowd with some seasonal dips, said Henderson.
“That was one of the interesting features, that the crowds were quite steady,” she said.
Overall, Henderson and Newby described the farmers’ market as successful. “Though others have tried, this is the first successful attempt at bringing such a market to Saanich,” said Henderson.
Initial planning for the project began two years ago, picking up steam last year. Council eventually granted the farmers’ market a temporary use permit for three years that is renewable one more time.
Ultimately, the project picked up pace faster than what organizers had expected. “I was surprised, that although Marsha and I had only a few months to finalize details after getting our permit, we had so many vendors quickly sign up to be part of the first season,” Newby said.
Henderson said she and Newby had hoped for 25 vendors. “Our list is currently at 72, and we had about 35 vendors per market.”
She also praised the level of support from various community groups. “A high level of co-operation and community engagement is what moved this idea forward, and should encourage others with good ideas,” said Henderson.
Newby acknowledged the support of the Braefoot, Quadra Cedar Hill and Royal Oak community associations, Saanich staff and council and “everyone else that worked and volunteered to make this happen.”
The market did have its bumps along the way. “We’ve noticed August was slower than July, apparently not uncommon for summer markets,” said Newby. “We want July visitors to know we’ve greatly improved the parking flow.”
Visitors next year can also expect more farmers and food producers to show off their wares as both Henderson and Newby expect the market to grow over the coming years.