New farmers' market launching with focus on First Nations growers, crafters

New FN farmers' market

A new local farmers' market is starting up this weekend with a focus on local Indigenous businesses.

The Kweseltken Farmers' and Artisan Market is a new initiative aiming at supporting First Nations and Indigenous growers, producers and artisans, says George Casimir. He's the general manager at the Community Futures Development Corporation of Central Interior First Nations (CFDC of CIFN), an organization focused on Indigenous economic development from Bridge River to Splatsin to Spuzzum.

"Kweseltken is the Secwepemc word for relatives," he explains to Castanet. "What we all want to do is bring all the relatives in the Secwepemc nation under one roof."

"Our membership has always wanted something like this, to really bring their goods and crafts and really showcase what they can do," he adds.

The market will be Sundays (starting Aug. 2) at the Kamloops Powwow Arbour, featuring locally crafted, grown and produced items by Indigenous business people (or partnerships). Casimir believes it's the first of its kind in B.C. with the First Nations focus.

The CFDC of CIFN focuses on business development; Casimir points out that creating and providing a venue for that is not only helping producers and creators get to a literal marketplace, but also gives the organization an outreach model.

"This is a way for us to really connect with the farmers and artisans directly," he says. "We know there’s not only the market, but there’re online business development models."

"Helping people from the start-up is so important," he adds.

There's also going ot be space for some local organizations, like Tourism Kamloops or the Chamber of Commerce.

It's not all about growing business, though. Casimir says it's also about growing food, locally.

"This is something that has been needed for a long time," he says, noting the recent pandemic's effect on food supply in the area. "Food security, food safety, all these things we’re talking more often about."

He says the general population needs to be more aware of the issue, and the farmers market is a way to tackle the issue. With a second wave somewhere in the future, he adds that now is a good time to launch the market and make sure people are mindful of where food comes from.

That issue is actually integral to how the market came to be.

"I was having a discussion with my executive committee, we were talking around the needs around the beef industry and food security," he explains. "We started talking about how do we develop either the e-commerce or a market."

The new market won't be starting small; 44 stalls can be set up and he's got ideas about how the market can grow, depending on the response. Casimir adds safety protocols are already in place for the pandemic.

So far he's got a variety of farmers lined up, with berries and vegetables expected from multiple growers. There'll also be a garlic farmer on hand, who's excited since he's had difficulty finding a venue for his fragrant product. Casimir notes a beader ("She's very talented") coming as well.

As someone who's pursued farming as a hobby, Casimir is excited for the market himself.

"To be able to support such an industry that needs this support is an honour," he says.

The first market opens at 8 a.m. at 345 Powwow Trail (the Kamloops Powwow Arbour) and runs to 2 p.m. Entrance is free for shoppers. It'll continue to run every Sunday until the end of September. For more information, email the CFDC of CIFN at [email protected].

More Kamloops News