Despite new health restrictions that were implemented across Alberta last week, local farmers’ market devotees will soon receive their first fix of the season.
The Morinville Farmers’ Market opens Sunday, May 2, and there is an excited buzz among organizers. The outdoor market will operate between the Rendezvous Centre and Ray McDonald until Oct. 3.
After what’s been a rollercoaster year of health policy changes, market manager Christine Mercier said she is excited to see the market get off the ground.
At the moment, the market is in a transitional phase. Up until a few years ago, it had run on Main Street on Friday nights. At one point, only six vendors were selling their goods and the market appeared to have lost momentum.
By shifting location and day of the week, the market picked up steam. In 2020, it showcased an uptick of about 25 vendors and an average 500 visitors per day.
“The change of location and doing it on Sunday has helped tremendously. There’s not a lot of things to do in Morinville and this is something families can do together,” said Mercier.
So far, 34 vendors from across the province have committed to the market and three are pending. Visitors can expect to see assorted crafts such as bird houses, fairy houses, quilts, jewelry, pens, cutting boards and baskets. Stalls will also showcase a diverse mix from leggings, fresh meat and micro greens to jams, dog treats and cards.
“We have a good cross-section, but we’re looking for bakers, cheese makers, pie makers, fish vendors, exotic plants, clothing, food trucks – anything that is special and different,” added Mercier. The market has a maximum capacity of 50 booths.
This year, the market has also partnered with the Morinville Chamber of Commerce to create a long-term vision, said chamber manager Roberta Pawluk.
“We want to make the market a Sunday afternoon destination. COVID has prevented us from holding a lot of activities and events. We’re starting a new program at the market. It’s called Market Buds and we’re launching it in June. Basically, kids can come to the market to learn about gardening and cooking as well as arts and crafts. For every activity they attend, we give them a $2 token they can spend at a food product vendor. And we want to bring in bouncy castles or a petting zoo or the Alexander Hoop Dancers,” Pawluk said.
She also noted Market Buds, a program launched through The Alberta Farmers’ Market Association, is strictly at the mercy of the pandemic.
“We’ve only made short-term plans on it. Many times, we plan something and it backfires because of COVID.”
Pawluk did not release information on the program’s costs. However, she did say, “I don’t look at (it) as a long-term cost. I look at it as an investment. The longer we can keep customers at the market, the more they are apt to stick around and shop. All of these things are an investment in the community and the vendors.”
Mercier encourages farmers’ market shoppers who enjoy fresh air and a friendly ambiance to drop by.
“The vendors are always willing to share information. Some will even haggle on the price. When you go to a supermarket, they can’t tell you anything about the person who bakes the pies or how the carrots are grown. I can’t reiterate enough how this is a friendly place. The products are varied and you can buy things you won’t find at a supermarket.”
The market operates every Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Vendors interested in applying for a spot can call 780-940-7166.