Organizers of the weekly markets downtown and at Cottonwood Falls say the events are in danger of being downsized if they can’t arrange financial help from the city.
The West Kootenay EcoSociety requested to city council last month that a $5,500 fee to run the markets be waived. Without that help, the non-profit organization says it will look at reducing the number of markets held each year.
Fiona Galbraith, the society’s co-executive director, said the reduced fee will help them keep costs down for vendors.
“We run the markets because one of our main focus areas is food security systems,” said Galbraith. “So the idea being that if you have a farmer’s market that’s a success for farmers, you don’t charge too much for the rental space so they have a venue to sell their goods.
“So in terms of waiving the fees, because we’re a non-profit, we’re not making money on the market. But we’re providing a community event that promotes tourism, it brings people into town, they stay longer to enjoy the markets, all of those things.”
The EcoSociety runs 16 markets downtown every Wednesday from June to September. It also organizes 24 Cottonwood Markets every Saturday between May to October.
Galbraith estimated 50-to-60 vendors are on a waiting list for access to the markets. They’ve considered expanding, but Galbraith said that would require further conversations with the city.
She said it would also move the markets toward a kind of gentrification in which food sustainability is no longer the emphasis.
“We want to make sure there is a staggered system in terms of those vendors who maybe have the higher valued items,” said Galbraith. “I believe that they pay more for a vendor space but we really want to make sure it doesn’t become an artisan market.
“It’s really about food security and food sustainability within the region. So it needs to be a price point that it’s affordable to the local vendors selling produce. It’s highly perishable, they don’t make a ton of money off of it, so it has to be accessible to the farmers.”
The request, which was made at a committee of the whole meeting where councillors hear but don’t make decisions on presentations, also asked the city to sponsor the society’s three Market Fests for $15,000.
Galbraith said the Market Fests aren’t specific to food systems, and that weather makes them financially risky events to put on. The society has already cut down the Market Fests from three to two this year.
The ask for $15,000, she said, is in part future proofing for the society but also a request that the city play a part in a community event.
“People often think the markets are a city event. …,” said Galbraith. “It’s just saying, look, we providing this service, it’s part of the community and we would like you to partner with us on it.”