Monday, 12 September 2011

Establishing the Right "Mix"

One of the questions I am often asked by both customers and vendors alike is how we decide which vendors to accept as part of our market.

Our vendor decisions are made by considering a number of criteria, some of which are mandated, some of which are recommended and others that are part of our own vision for the SWEFM and our communities.

The 80/20 Rule

When we receive an vendor's application,  we first have to determine if they conform to our 80.20 rule.  As an Alberta Approved Farmers' Market, we have a regulation that stipulations that 80% of all our vendors (including concessions) must sell Alberta products which "they, an immediate family member, a direct staff member or a member of a producer-owned cooperative of their staff have made, baked, or grown." 

While we do have an allocation for up to 20% of our market to include resellers or out of province vendors, we do try as much as possible to favour Albertan businesses, particularly those from the Edmonton area.  We are proud of the fact that over 90% of our market is comprised of locally owned, Alberta businesses!  In fact, the only out of province retailers we allow are BC Fruit vendors and/or other products that are not readily available in our province.

Franchises, resellers and Direct Selling Companies

While many Farmers' Markets do allow for Resellers or other direct-sales style companies like Epicure, Stella and Dot and Tupperware, the SWEFM Board feels that the vision of our Farmers' Market is best served by focusing exclusively on local independantly-owned small businesses and farms.  While we absolutely recognize the value of franchise and resale based companies, we truly want to highlight the unique products that are being manufactured here in Alberta by Albertan entrepreneurs and feel that the best way to do that is by ensuring that they are able to be the primary focus of our operation. This is also the best way to support our local economic growth, which is one of our major objectives as an organization.  For this reason, you will find very limited franchises in our market, and only those that are locally based.

Market Mix
It is very important to us that we offer a variety of vendors to make sure that we are meeting the needs of all of our customers!  Here is the breakdown that is recommended by the Department of Agriculture. We try to stay as true to this as possible:
  • 30% - Agricultural products
  • 25% - Non-agricultural food products/value-added products
  • 25% - Craft and artisan products & other non-food homemade and handcrafted products
  • 20% - Other
Sometimes, to make sure that we have a nice, full market, we will deviate from this percentages.  However, we do always make it a point to ensure that we have an adequate amount of produce/fruit, and other food options available. 

Quality Over Quantity

As a new start-up, it was difficult to resist the urge to universally accept every application that came our way. Certainly, we wanted to make sure that we had sufficient vendors to ensure that we were busy and sustainable for our season. However, ensuring that we also had high quality vendors was the main priority.  We know that our patrons insist upon having only the highest quality, freshest, most unique products in the City and we were committed to delivering on this promise.  For that reason, we chose our vendors very carefully and only after having reviewed all their products. 

Building an attractive, full and diverse market is no small feat! After our first season, we are proud of the 70+ vendors who joined our project and hope to see them (and many others!) back again next year. 

As always, we welcome feedback from our patrons.  Is there anyone or anything you would love to see in our market?

A Moment of thanks!

Ever wonder why your community doesn’t have a Farmers’ Market of its own? Well, that was a question buzzing around the minds of some of the residents of Southwest Edmonton for a long time before a dedicated Board of volunteers set themselves to work at making it happen!

Surprisingly few people know that Alberta Approved Farmers’ Markets such as the Southwest Edmonton Farmers’ Market are volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organizations.  While they do receive some funding from the Government of Alberta and have access to the Department of Agriculture’s support and resources, the ‘heavy lifting’ comes directly from community members who are passionate about seeing a local, sustainable market in their area.

The SWEFM Board is responsible for the governance and operations of the Market including overseeing the Market Manager and the market rules/regulations, ensuring that the necessary funding is in place, approving and spear-heading all marketing and media initiatives, recruiting and maintaining an exceptional roster of vendors.  This is quite the load for a group of volunteers, and building the market is a project that took over 2 years to accomplish.  Now, as we wrap up our first season, we witness first hand the fruits of our labours and recognize that all this effort was totally worth it.

We did want to highlight the involvement and support that we received from a few specific businesses and organizations in our community, without whom this project could never have taken wing.

Our Market Host (May/June): Lillian Osborne High School 

Our Corporate Sponsors:

Our Donors:

We would also like to extend a warm and heartfelt thank you to all our volunteers, in particular the students of Lillian Osborne and community members who join us every week to help set up and tear down the market and to assist us traffic control and customer service.  We could never do this without your help and engagement. 

Friday, 26 August 2011

Make It. Bake It. Grow It: Building an Alberta Approved Market

We all know that Farmers' Markets are becoming increasingly popular.  The total number of markets across the province has exploded in recent years and there are now several dozen all over the City.  In fact, farmers' markets are the number one Alberta Agriculture tourist attraction! More than just shopping, markets provide a community experience with a focus on sustainable and healthy living practices for all!

But, did you know that not all Albertan are alike? Many markets, such as the Southwest Edmonton Farmers' Market, have gone the extra mile to make sure that our values and practices reflect the real vision goals of community and economic development of our Province. These markets have gone through a thorough application and certification process through the Ministry of Agriculture and have earned the title of "Alberta Approved".  You can recognize us by looking for the "Alberta Sunny Girl" logo:

An Alberta Approved Farmers' Market must:
  1. Operate on a not-for-profit basis.  This means that all monies generated by the market must be reinvested into the market every year.  Markets are run either by not-for-profit organizations or by a committee incorporated under the  Societies Act or the Cooperatives Act.   
  2. Have proof of inspection and approval by Alberta Health Services.  This includes having a manager who is trained in Food Safety and can ensure that all products being sold are safe for distribution. 
  3. Have a manager who has successfully passed the Farmers' Market Manager Training program. 
  4. Show proof of liability insurance in the event that there is a problem that arises at the market. 
  5. Follow the protocols of the 80/20 rule. This means that 80% of the market vendors (or more) must sell a product that they (or their immediately staff and/or family member) have made, baked, or grown in Alberta. The remaining 20% of the vendors can be from out of province, resale and/or commercial products. 

Why is it important to be Alberta Approved? 

Getting Alberta Approved status is a time consuming project. It requires research, transparency and a genuine commitment to ensuring that the market in question is compliant with all regulations.  

When shopping at an Alberta Approved location, you can be sure of the following:
  1. The site and products meet all the health and safety regulations of the province.
  2. The majority of the products/vendors are Alberta grown, made or manufactured and that those that are not will be clearly identified. 
  3. That the organizers and employees are part of a not-for-proft group dedicated to building their community and creating a sustainable local economy. 
  4. That there is a trained point-person (Manager, Board member or other designated representative) accountable for ensuring that all the rules and regulations are consistently followed. 
Choosing an Alberta Approved market is making the choice to prioritize your community, your City, and your province.  When you shop at Alberta Approved markets, you can rest assured that you are taking part in an initiative that is grounded in healthy, sustainable, local living. 

After all, the Sunny Girl says so!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


We haven't seen a lot of these on Wednesdays so take advantage of it and head on down to the Southwest Edmonton Farmers' Market TONIGHT from 5:30pm until 8pm!

Our Children's Corner will be onsite providing entertainment for your kids!

Our onsite concessions tonight include: Eva Sweet Waffles, Pink Kernel Mini Doughnuts, Great Canadian Kettle Korn, Nomad, Good Earth and Shaka Boys!

Alberta CORN has arrived! Get yours before its gone!!

Also, take a few minutes to fill out our quick survey- it could win you a prize of $50.00 in SWEFM BUCKS!!

Take our survey here:!

*Survey will run from August 24th until August 31st.  Winners will be announced in September.**

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Importance of Farmers' Markets

In recent decades, as trends towards environmental protection, local economic development, and healthy eating practices have grown, Farmers’ Markets have gained unprecedented popularity.  In Edmonton alone, dozens of not-for-profit run markets operate during the summer months, helping to connect our local merchants with our communities. These markets abound with produce, art, crafts, food and entertainments of all kinds; it is not surprising that people of all ages would regularly flock to their local set-up to partake in the festivities.

Along with being a truly entertaining and unique way to spend a summer evening, Farmers’ Markets actually play important roles in our City’s economy and provide an invaluable service to our communities.

The first and most obvious benefit gained from supporting Farmers’ Markets is that they play a vital role in sustaining our local economy. By spending local money on local products produced by local business owners, we keep the cycle of money within our City and community. This allows us to better control the capital and to have more say in how our community money is spent.  The money we spend supporting our local businesses returns to us (and to our neighbours) in a more direct and tangible way.  Local businesses employ large portions of our population and ensuring their success also helps keep local unemployment rates at a minimum.

In turn, our local businesses give back to their customers by providing them high quality products, directly from the source. These markets allow for fresher, healthier, more diverse produce and products to become more widely available. Customers can interact directly with the business-owners to ask questions about farming practices, production, distribution and quality control. 

Because most of Edmonton’s markets are run by not-for-profit organizations who are approved by the Alberta Government’s Ministry of Agriculture, you can be sure that they are being run ethically and responsibly with a strong community focus in mind. A Farmers’ Market provides a community with more than just shopping options; it creates a dynamic hub in which people from all walks of life come together to celebrate our local culture.  From watching young buskers as they learn their craft, to meeting new and interesting local artisans, Markets weave an intricate tapestry in which all are welcomed with open arms.  They provide a rare opportunity to actually see neighbours come together to work towards building a better community for themselves and for each other.

This kinship is the heart and soul of the Southwest Edmonton Farmers’ Market, which caters to over 30 neighborhoods that span all the way from south of the North Saskatchewan River and west of Gateway Boulevard, to the furthest outskirts of the City. Since we launched our Grand Opening, back in May, we have been amazed to see this project develop a life of its own. Already, in just three months, tens of thousands of patrons have come to visit our seventy vendors and entertainers.  These loyal customers have interacted with our business sponsors, signed up for blood drives, learned about Nature Alberta and about the City of Edmonton’s composting program.  They have laughed at our entertainers, danced to our buskers and reveled in our delicious food options. 

And yes, they’ve gotten wet; this seems to be the summer of rain, and we’ve had our fair share of it. 

But still they love to come because they know that they are building something sustainable and are a part of a bigger dream, that of a community that eats together, shops together, lives together and thrives together. 

We thank you all for your continued support. 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Welcome to the Southwest Edmonton Farmers' Market Blog!

We are so excited to be launching our blog! This platform will be used to communicate to you, our loyal patron, any recent news and upcoming events. It will also become a hub for articles and special interest discussions surrounding the market, our city, and the importance of supporting our local economy.

Blog posts will be primarily written by Zita Dube-Lockhart, the Southwest Edmonton Farmers' Market Manager, but we will also be seeking guest bloggers including some of your very favourite vendors.  If you are interested in being featured as a guest blogger, make sure to send us an email at!

We will be updating this blog often, so make sure to check back with us regularly or subscribe to us for email updates.

Thank you for your continued support of our market, our community and our City!

The SWEFM team