This has been an interesting year in the world of BCAFM. I want to acknowledge the loss of another amazing individual a short time ago. Cat Majors was a former BCAFM board member and president of the Armstrong Farmers’ Market. We are fortunate that she was able to touch so many of us with her boundless optimism and joie de vivre. Read on below as we remember Cat, and the many contributions she made to our community.
In July of this year, Elizabeth left the BCAFM to pursue a passion of hers with the Yasodhara Ashram located in the Kootenays. I am so thankful that many of you were able to join us or send messages as we surprised her with a party in mid-July. She was truly taken aback – it was not the coffee date with me that she was expecting! As the first Executive Director of the BCAFM, Elizabeth’s impact will be felt for a long time.
We have been fortunate to hire Heather O’Hara as the new Executive Director. I know that everyone will have a great time getting to know her over the coming months. I would like to thank the Board of Directors, in particular Bruce Fatkin, for working so hard with me on finding such an excellent candidate. Heather brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in business and food security and we are very excited to have her on board as we move forward.
I have also been busy (really, just doing what Georgia tells me!) with media promotions. I have done media interviews with Edible Vancouver, Orchard & Vine, Country Life, Wave Radio in Nanaimo and Foodline Radio in Vancouver, in addition to providing quotes for multiple government releases. Last but not least, I’ve had informal meetings with six MLA’s to discuss the role of BC farmers’ markets in communities across the province.
In my last newsletter article I started to explore the idea that farmers’ markets, with over 135 in the province, are one of the most prevalent agricultural service providers in BC. So for a moment, I want to circle back, and reflect on our collective impact on food service at the provincial level.
Farmers' Markets & Food Access: A Look at the Numbers
Markets are the opportunity for farmers and ranchers to directly sell their products to our consumers; but we aren’t the only ones who do that in the province. So how do we stand up in terms of numbers? Where do our 135 member farmers’ markets rank us in terms of food delivery to British Columbians? A couple of quick Google searches provide me with the following numbers: the only major grocery retailer in the province that matches the number of BC farmers’ markets is the Overwaitea Food Group. Between all five of their grocery chains, they have 140 stores in the province. Here’s how other retailers compare in terms of the number of outlets in BC: Safeway has 64 stores; Walmart 44 stores; Extra Foods 7 stores. When added up, these companies have 255 grocery store outlets in BC. With farmers’ markets included, there are a total of 390 major retail grocery outlets in BC (not including smaller grocery stores).
A couple more Google searches, and I find that between the towns (14), villages (42), cities (50), district, island, mountain, regional, and resort municipalities (55) and communities (889) we have 1071 populated locations in BC, that are being served by 390 major retail grocery outlets. These numbers lead me to the conclusion that there are communities within the province that do not have any retail grocery outlets. I know here in the Cariboo, we have communities without stand-alone grocery service. These communities are often served by stores that provide multiple services to the community – such as gas, some form of basic groceries, alcohol, parcel pick up/delivery, etc. In the North, Houston and Fraser Lake are without grocery service as their SuperValu stores closed this year. Thankfully, Houston is a member of the BCAFM and has a great market with a good number of farmers for its size (about four of nine vendors are farmers.)
So where does this lead us? Is it important for us to look at communities with little or no access to fresh food? Does it matter? Is there a role that the BCAFM can play in working with our vendors and markets to provide additional opportunities in new communities? How do we support our vendors and markets as new opportunities arise? As you can see, I have few answers yet, but many questions – which I am hoping will lead to great conversations amongst our communities, and BCAFM members. If these ideas or observations have sparked any questions or comments for you, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.