Year-round market interest is high

There’s high interest from customers and vendors in starting a year-round farmers market in Red Deer, according to a new study.

There’s high interest from customers and vendors in starting a year-round farmers market in Red Deer, according to a new study.

The main hurdle would be getting an individual or group to take a leadership role in getting it off the ground.

“There are mixed feelings among organizers. … Most are ready to join a movement, but not ready to take the lead,” said Corey Tibble. The Equis employee was part of a team who completed a study on the market as part of a seven-month course offered by the non-profit Leadership Network.

Other team members were Nick Greba of Nova Chemicals, Pam Halvorson from CrossRoads Church, Sonny Nagra of MEGlobal and Ron Barr of Red Deer County.

Studying public interest in a year-round market was suggested by ReThink Red Deer. The non-profit group that encourages local initiatives didn’t want the notion to die with the demolition of the city transit barns, said ReThink Red Deer’s project leader Rene Michalak.

The old bus barns — once suggested as a site for a year-round market — are planned to be levelled by October. According to the city, the buildings are too dilapidated to be preserved.

At the Leadership Network’s presentation of the study on Thursday, Tibble talked about how his team created an online survey for market stakeholders.

The results of the questionnaire were largely positive towards the idea of forming a year-round farmers market in Red Deer.

Most surveyed potential market customers were overwhelmingly in favour of it, and would travel up to 20 km to go to a all-season market.

Most vendors would also support it — if it were only held once a week. (Some stated, however, that they could only support one farmers market and they currently were supporting another one.)

Respondents felt the availability of fresh, locally grown produce, homemade baked goods, arts and crafts and innovative products are key to the market’s success.

As well, they pinpointed a friendly community atmosphere, a suitable building, free parking, and good management.

The organizers contracted had mixed feelings about a year-round market, but were mostly ready to join the movement if someone else took the lead, said Tibble.

The survey was completed by 336 potential market customers, 20 vendors and four organizers. The respondents heard about the survey through ReThink Red Deer’s website and EcoLiving fair, a Red Deer home show held in March, and community announcement boards.

The majority of people who answered the questions were married women with children. Organizers had to be specifically contacted and were mostly from the Red Deer Wednesday night farmers market and from markets in outlying communities such as Blackfalds and Caroline. Nagra said attempts to contact the organizers of Red Deer’s May-to-October public market were unsuccessful.

As most respondents were from a similar demographic group, Nagra said a broader market study should be done, but this would require more funding for the hiring of a professional surveyor.

Kathy Parsons, Chair of ReThink Red Deer, was encouraged by the Leadership Network survey. She said it indicated support for a year-round market in Red Deer, “while taking nothing away from the established markets currently operating.”

She believes the next step would be to bring community leaders, and resources together “to keep the process going so that a solid foundation can be developed.”

Michalak said the study will go before the ReThink Red Deer board to determine how high a priority a year-round market project is, compared to others the group is undertaking.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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