The Quesnel Farmers’ Market is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The first market of the 2018 season will be held Saturday, May 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Helen Dixon Centre grounds at the corner of Kinchant Street and Carson Avenue. File photos

To market we will go

The Quesnel Farmers’ Market opens for its 30th season Saturday, May 5

This Saturday marks the beginning of the 30th season of the Quesnel Farmers’ Market.

The market runs every Saturday from May 5 to Oct. 13 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Helen Dixon Centre grounds at the corner of Kinchant Street and Carson Avenue.

This is the market’s 30th year in existence, and it has been at the Helen Dixon Centre grounds for just over 12 years, explains Quesnel Farmers’ Market president Paul Zeegers.

Zeegers says although the weather has been challenging for producers so far, there is still a lot to look forward to at the farmers’ market.

“We are off to a slow start with the weather, but otherwise, we hope to have a good year,” he says, noting last year was a good year for the market, although it did end in snow.

With a “Make it, Bake it, Grow it, Raise it, Wild Harvest it” philosophy, the market features local and regional foods and crafts, live entertainment by local musicians and special events throughout the season.

Zeegers says they are continuing the kids’ tent, which debuted last year, because it was so beneficial last season. This tent gives young children a supervised area where they can play games and play with toys while their parents roam around.

A new program this year is a Vendor Incubation Program to encourage producers who may be interested in joining the Quesnel Farmers’ Market but are not sure yet if they want to make that commitment.

“If there is a new vendor who would like to try the market, we can provide them with support, provide them with a tent and they can try it two to three times … to get their feet wet,” says Zeegers. “The new vendor program gives them an opportunity to come to the market without having the big outlay. Some people are a little hesitant sometimes, and this will break the ice a little bit.”

Anyone interested in the Vendor Incubation Program can look up more information at quesnelmarket.net or contact one of the market organizers, says Zeegers.

Zeegers says there are usually 24 to 30 vendors at the market, but they could probably squeeze in a maximum of 40 vendors, and they could always include more vegetable producers at the market.

Throughout the season, various community groups also come and take part in the market to promote their work in the community, and Zeegers says this works out great for everyone.

“That’s always interesting,” he says. “It’s beneficial to the community groups and to us.”

Zeegers, who has been involved with the Quesnel Farmers’ Market for 10 years, says local residents and visitors who are passing through Quesnel on a Saturday are very supportive.

“People realize when they come and spend money at the markets, that money stays in the community because people know we live here,” he says. “That makes a big impact on the community overall.”

The first special event planned for this season is the Giant Pumpkin Sales May 26, where people can buy pumpkin plants and start trying to grow the biggest pumpkin.

The Quesnel Farmers’ Market will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a special event June 30.

Aug. 18 will be Garlic Day at the Market.

“That’s when the first fresh crop of garlic is available, so we’re going to do something special that day,” says Zeegers.

Customer Appreciation Day will be Sept. 15.

“We cook up a small snack of locally-grown product to thank customers for the season,” says Zeegers.

The Giant Pumpkin Weigh-In will take place Oct. 6 during Thanksgiving weekend.

“A few years ago, we had one that was over 300 pounds, which is big for this area,” says Zeegers.

In the fall, the Quesnel Farmers’ Market takes part in the BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program. Community partner organizations hand out coupons to people with lower incomes, and these coupons can be spent at the farmers’ market to purchase vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs, dairy, cut herbs, meat and fish.

After Oct. 13, the Quesnel Farmers’ Market will move indoors and hold its Christmas Markets Nov. 24, Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 at the Quesnel Arts and Recreation Centre.

For more information, visit quesnelmarket.net.

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