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. 

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