To market, to market to buy a fat pig

Red Deer’s centre of the universe, the one thing that we all love and which brings the community together more than anything else, is our public market.

Red Deer’s centre of the universe, the one thing that we all love and which brings the community together more than anything else, is our public market.

Even though it’s privately managed, city residents tend to treat it as our own showcase of what’s great about Red Deer. It’s the people who bring the market alive each year.

Now, the only thing that might make it better could be the thing that destroys it. City council must tread carefully as it looks at proposals that could affect the market as we know it.

The public market runs outdoors, from the May long weekend to Thanksgiving. Every Saturday morning thousands of people, including out-of-towners, help turn the edges of the greater downtown area (43rd Street and 48th Avenue) into this wonderful eclectic mix of food, culture, social engagement and small business — and sometimes even good old face-to-face electioneering.

Much of what is offered, eaten, sold, admired and purchased is generated by local producers and artisans.

The market is the brainchild of Dennis Moffat, a former teacher and city councillor, and local artist. It has evolved from a “farmers market” to a “public market” because it’s much more than a place for local producers to sell food. Moffat will open the market for his 41st time this May. Last year’s opening day drew about 12,000 people. Moffat, approaching his 80s, plans to turn the market over to his son one day.

What will happen to the public market if another market arrives on the scene?

Consideration is now being given to a year-round indoor market, which could be located in the City of Red Deer’s former transit or civic garage buildings in the Cronquist Business Park/Riverlands area. The buildings were emptied when the city moved to the new Civic Yards at 77th Street and 40th Avenue.

Council was to consider the Year Round Market and Artisan Spaces Report on Monday evening.

“The economic impacts of public or farmers markets include . . . profits to business owners in the market, the creation of jobs, sales and real estate tax revenues, the support industries that benefit from the activity generated and making a community or region more attractive for tourism. . . . There are also many indirect benefits (e.g. stimulating development of downtowns, enhancing agora spaces, farmland preservation, etc.),” the report states.

“We see all of these benefits in Red Deer in our successful seasonal market, but these are limited by the fact that it only runs for just over four months of the year.”

“There is tremendous potential that could be realized by having a year-round venue for this economic, social and cultural generator,” explains the report.

“Another identified need was for affordable studio and practice space as a means to supporting artists practising and staying in our community. This was identified by local producers . . . and can be seen at the Strathcona Farmers Market in Edmonton, and the Calgary Farmers Market where there are several Central Alberta producers who attend those markets, rather than the seasonal Red Deer Public Market,” the report says.

The preferred of several operational options for a year-round market is that the City of Red Deer pursue private ownership and development with city investment.

A year-round market could spell the demise of the current outdoor public market.

I support a year-round market. If it’s successful, how could those involved go wrong?

But if it’s not successful, and the Red Deer Public Market closes, what are we left with?

With this in mind, members of city council must carefully consider any year-round market proposals they are to see in the months ahead with the knowledge that moving forward could change a treasured aspect of life in Red Deer forever.

Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at barr@bprda.wpengine.com or by phone at 403-314-4332.