The Red Deer Public Market, is a weekly event that runs every Saturday in the Servus Arena parking lot, from May long weekend to Thanksgiving. (File photo by Advocate staff)

The Red Deer Public Market, is a weekly event that runs every Saturday in the Servus Arena parking lot, from May long weekend to Thanksgiving. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Farmers markets provide opportunity for small businesses

It’s been nearly a year since the Gasoline Alley Farmers Market officially opened.

When the market opened on Nov. 21, 2020, there were about 50 vendors. Now there are more than 55 small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs at the indoor and year-round market. Additionally, the market kitchen features five restaurants, a brewery and coffee roasted on site.

With this space, these business owners are “able to showcase what the do,” said Shauna Fisher, market general manager.

“These are all business people who are vibrantly entrepreneurial. Being in the market here helps them put food on the table and shoes on their children’s feet.”

Eighty per cent of the products sold at the market are made, baked and grown in Alberta. More than 12 local farms are represented.

The market does have some smaller popup spaces available – many businesses that started in the smaller spaces have upgraded as their customer base grew, said Fisher.

“We’ve got people who have just started their venture, people who have moved from a smaller space to a bigger space at the market, and other ones have gone from the market to a brick and mortar (operation) in downtown Red Deer,” she said.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth, even in the past year with COVID and all of those things that are going on.

“COVID has been offering challenges around the world and Alberta. The community has really backed (the Gasoline Alley Farmers Market). We are what local means. We are local communities.”

The Gasoline Alley Farmers Market is open Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., while the kitchen is open Tuesday to Sunday.

“We want to make this market the best place ever and to be able to … offer people a real local experience,” Fisher said, adding the market will eventually introduce workshops when COVID-19 restrictions will allow.

Patrick Moffat, who runs the Red Deer Public Market, which is a weekly event that runs every Saturday in the Servus Arena parking lot from May long weekend to Thanksgiving, also provides small businesses with a space to sell their products.

While the market isn’t as popular as it was before the pandemic, the 2021 season was “a lot better” than 2020, said Moffat.

“It’s hard to see our businesses suffer like they have over the past couple of years,” said Moffat.

“But to have them at the market, to watch them do more business and to provide them with the opportunity to use the market to help incubate their businesses, it’s wonderful to watch.”

In 2020, booths were down in the high double-digit numbers. But in 2021, the numbers were more consistently in the triple-digit numbers, Moffat said, adding the highest was around 135. Pre-COVID the average summer days would see more than 200 booths.

“It’s not back to normal yet, but it will get there. For the business that have been here, there’s been some positivity,” he said.

The businesses and attendees were able to follow COVID precautions this year, he added.

“Everyone’s careful with each other here. We’ve set out some boundaries as (Alberta Health Services) wanted us to, we’ve tried to keep our six feet distancing and have worn masks when appropriate,” Moffat said.

“I think everyone’s gotten the message here that we’re looking out for each other. We wouldn’t have this if we weren’t following the rules.”