The Hedley Farmers Market is gearing up for its third year, helping to achieve food sovereignty by providing fresh vegetables straight from farmers in the Similkameen Valley.
“I wanted somewhere to get fresh food, but there wasn’t anywhere within 30 kilometres,” said Hedley resident Vickie Hansen, who is the driving force behind the farmers market.
The market started with seven vendors selling fruit, vegetables and crafts, but has since jumped to over 20.
“This market represents the only alliance in the Similkameen Valley that works to further social health through community gathering and the provision of good food and by encouraging economic development with increased opportunities for representation for local growers and artisans,” Hansen said.
The push to buy fresh local food from farmers was the topic of a March 22 meeting in Princeton, led by MP Alex Atamanenko and Colleen Ross, vice-president of the National Farmers Union.
Ross said farmers should try to eliminate the middleman and market their own crops locally.
But this can be extremely challenging with tight grocery store restrictions and interference by the government and big corporations, she added.
“We should only buy food that has a story. We should know where a particular vegetable comes from and who grew it.”
And this is exactly the point of the Hedley Farmers Market.
Nearby farmers set up stands to sell their produce, providing local people with fresh food while making a profit themselves without using a middleman.
Around 4,000 cars drive by Hedley on summer weekends, so the farmers will also be attracting tourists, Hansen said.
The market runs on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from the beginning of July to the end of September, selling everything from tomatoes, to turnips, to mixed salad greens and cherries.
Produce can also be traded. For example, eggs for lettuce or in exchange for mowing a lawn, Hansen said.
“You can talk to the person who grew your food, and ask what’s best to do with it. You can’t do that at a supermarket.”
Famers markets are beneficial to farmers who can have a hard time making enough money to support their families. It gives them a way to make some extra cash in their own communities, Ross said.
She would like to see many more farmers markets in the South Okanagan, so residents have opportunities to support local farmers, rather than buying foreign produce from places like the United States or China.
Anyone is welcome to sell at the Hedley Farmers Market, as long as they make, bake or grow their items.
“It’s about a change in attitude. It’s about eating healthy and knowing where your food comes from,” Hansen said.
Her next goal is to bring Hedley together to design, plant and grow an edible urban garden that inspires the community to gather together, grow their own food and rehabilitate the local ecosystem.
“The local ecosystem was totally devastated by mining operations in the first half of the 20th century,” she said.
She hopes Hedley residents will soon be able enjoy their food from a shared community garden.