Farmer gives New City Market thumbs down

This excerpt from a column by Pemberton farmer Anna Helmer expresses some of the opinions I share about the New City Market
December 8, 2011

By Anna Helmer

You would not believe the amount of mischief that is performed under the guise of “good for farms/farmers/farming,” and right now I have time to take stock of all the latest events advertised as such.

This year, I have emerged from the fog of summer labour to realize that a new farmers’ market proposal for the City of Vancouver has entered a much more serious planning stage. A study of the preliminary business plan for the New City Market suggests to me that all the farms in B.C. making a living selling at Vancouver farmers’ markets will be required to become suppliers of their own retail store — complete with massive overhead, more time away from the farm and an erosion of the consumer/producer connection that we have strived so hard to create.

Not good for this farmer.

Born out of the reasonable, fervent and long-held desire for surety when it comes to space for farmers’ markets (for which I would happily pay more in stall fees), the New City Market proposal has become a behemoth of meeting rooms, marketing and storage facilities, eateries and distribution hubs in addition to a multi-day, dawn-to-dusk farmers’ market.

Gone would be the four-hour markets where we can get to the city and back in a day, fitting everything we need into one 12-foot trailer, trading potatoes for money with the people who are going to eat them.

When I came across the initial proposal a year ago, I really didn’t think something so cumbersome and costly would ever get off the ground. Shocked was I to discover this week that there is now a fully-funded preliminary business plan document most egregiously boasting of increased access to less expensive, local food.

Make our food cheaper? Are you kidding me? We are supposed to lower prices on top of changing the entire business plan of the farm?

The time has come to wield the large stick grown of almost 20 years attendance at the Vancouver farmers’ markets.

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About Urban Food Revolution

Peter Ladner is a former Vancouver city councilor, Metro Vancouver vice-chair and business owner who is currently a weekly columnist at Business in Vancouver newspaper and a regular contributor to crosscut.com, a Seattle-based online news service. He is the author of The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way we Feed Cities, published by New Society in November, 2011. For the past two years he has been a Fellow at the SFU Centre for Dialogue researching, teaching and organizing public events around the theme Planning Cities as if Food Matters. He was first elected to Vancouver City Council in 2002, was re-elected in 2005 and ran for mayor in 2008. He is a former member of the TransLink Board, and was vice chair of the Metro Vancouver Board. Peter has been the publisher, president and part owner of the Business in Vancouver Media Group, which he co-founded in 1989. He has a lifelong interest in growing food. As a city councilor, he worked with the Vancouver Food Policy Council in initiating the city’s program to add 2010 food-producing community garden plots by 2010. He is vice-chair of the The Natural Step Canada, part of an international organization that advances sustainability in communities and corporations. He has a B.A. from UBC and did graduate work at the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning. He and his wife Erica have four adult children.
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