The Kamloops Regional Farmers’ Market kicked off for the season on Saturday, in what was the largest first-day market manager Greg Unger says he has ever organized.
Unger — who has been the farmers’ market manager for five years — said as he prepared for this season’s inaugural event, he could tell the day was going to be busy.
“When I was counting the number of vendors who wanted to attend that first week, I was like, ‘Oh, wow, we have that many vendors. I can only imagine we'll have crowds.’ And sure enough, there were crowds,” Unger said.
Saturday’s market took place under sunny skies, drawing dozens of vendors for the first day back after a challenging 2021 season.
“We had a lot of tough markets,” Unger said, noting COVID-19 and wildfire smoke made for a difficult year.
“Then it was a cold winter, and felt like it kind of dragged its feet. And then last Saturday, everything aligned. It was a beautiful sunny day, warm — and people just wanted to be out.”
The farmers market offers everything from local meats, prepared foods, handcrafted items like pottery and other artwork, as well as fresh vegetables and fruits when they are in season.
“There's always buskers, performers, the schoolyard beside us here on Saturday was just full of families with little picnic blankets and hanging out. It's just a fun, festive family atmosphere with lots of good food and things to see and do,” Unger said.
He said peak season — the middle of summer — will see up to 105 vendors selling goods, while the early season will typically draw closer to 50 to 75. Unger said Saturday’s numbers were “definitely at the higher end of that.”
According to Unger, the Kamloops Regional Farmers’ Market is 44 years old, founded in 1978 by a handful of farmers who discussed the importance of ensuring food security and felt local producers needed a place to sell their goods directly to the community.
Unger said this past year’s highway closures have highlighted the continued importance of local food production.
“At the farmers market, we see the value of local growing and producing. Making local is an excellent way to shore up our resources in case something like that were to ever happen to us, you know that you can come to the farmers market, we're going to have eggs, we're going to have dairy, we're going to have bread because we have local people doing that.”
Unger said as the market kept growing, it moved from its original location near the Delta Hotel to the Stuart Wood schoolyard.
“Eventually, as the market kept growing, we moved out onto the street and kept the school yard of course, and then who knows what's next? I think we might be due for another expansion soon, because we are getting pretty big,” he said.
Unger said this year, the market’s newest feature is an accessibility ramp which allows people with strollers and with mobility aids to navigate from St. Paul Street up the handful of stairs to the schoolyard.
He said the ramp was purchased with provincial government grant funding.
“It was long overdue. People have been asking for it for a while. And you know, we just want to make sure that the entire community can access all of our market,” Unger said.
The Kamloops’ Farmers Market runs each Saturday in the 200-block of St. Paul Street from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The season is set to end on Oct. 29.
Wednesday markets, which are held in front of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District building in the 400-block of Victoria Street, will kick off on May 4.