Markets’ expertise goes international
Boston farmers market is turning to Vancouver experts to provide local produce to customers. (SUBMITTED)
A farmers market without locally grown produce is a rather unfamiliar sight for Vancouverites.
So when the Boston Public Market resolved to end its reliance on fruits and veggies from wholesalers, organizers zeroed in on the West Coast’s model of farmers markets.
“Vancouver obviously has a great reputation for being a green city,” said Vancouver Farmers Markets operations manager Roberta LaQuaglia, noting city council approved a long-term food strategy in January that would boost the number of markets from nine to 22 by 2020.
“There’s definitely an openness to Vancouverites really wanting to know where their food has come from and that may go back to the city’s initiatives.”
But she said the BPM’s interest in Vancouver was more about changing trends and following the dollar signs. The city’s food strategy report stated farmers markets contribute about $15 million annually to the local economy.
After lending their expertise to markets in Coquitlam and New Westminster, LaQuaglia and VFM executive director Tara McDonald jumped at the chance to prove to Bostonians that locally produced fare could be profitable.
“We shared our sales data through our different categories of vendors,” the longtime ops manager said.
She recalled the most significant challenge came not from just retaining customers, but attracting and maintaining merchants — booths carrying meat and cheese being the main concern.
“Those are big-ticket items and people (have) a lot at stake when they come to a market, so they wanted to make sure that this kind of concept would work well for them.”
LaQuaglia said that particular concept doesn’t necessarily mean things turn out “gangbusters” immediately, but she pointed out VFM’s 18 years of existence is testament to the fact it can work.
She said anyone wishing to see a local success story can visit either the Trout Lake or Kitsilano farmers markets, opening Saturday and Sunday, respectively.