The Langley Community Farmers Market Society recently announced their decision to go on hiatus after a “disappointing market season in 2019.” They will not be organizing a 2020 farmers market due to a lower number of customers and “society revenues that fell significantly below projections,” according to a press release posted on their website in early January.
“The main reason behind [the hiatus] is that we’ve been looking at the financials over the past few years and trying different things in the market and it just [isn’t] financially viable at this point,” says Paige Dampier, Chair of the LCFM Society.
“We’re not attracting enough vendors and enough shoppers to attract more vendors in order to make it possible for the society to keep functioning.
She says the 2019 market had the fewest vendors the series has ever had. There were about 25 to 30 stalls per week when the market needed about 40 stalls to keep operating.
“We’re keeping the society going,” she says. “We’re in a position where we can’t put on a market next year but we also are not in debt to anyone.”
The organization is small, and had to consider expenses like insurance, phone bills, and the employment of a market manager.
“We did not raise sufficient funds to be able to continue employing a market manager,” she says.
The society is now planning on revising their vision for the market.
“There are different conversations going on … trying to figure out how we can support small farmers, small-scale business in Langley,” she says. “Those are conversations that we want to be involved in.”
The event may come back after 2021 as a regular, weekly farmer’s market or something new altogether.
“During the running of the market, we’ve certainly done different kinds of surveys to figure out how, as a society, we can support farmers and small businesses, but that hasn’t really answered the question of ‘what do small businesses and farmers need that the market may not be offering,’” says Dampier.
Dr. Kent Mullinix, director of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at KPU says he was disappointed to see that the market is going on hiatus.
“Farmers markets represent a new economic model whereby food buyers can assure that their food dollars go to the primary producers instead of a whole series of middle people,” he says.
The majority of all food retail trade in Canada is controlled by four supermarkets, according to Mullinix, who co-authored a guide published in 2017 which examined the business practices of 15 separate farms across the province, and how they worked with farmers markets.
The guide includes cases of farms in the Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver regions, the Thompson Okanagan region, the Kootenay Rockies, Vancouver Island, the Sea to Sky region, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, and Northern B.C.
The authors of the guide found that by focusing on areas such as financial management, human resources, and marketing, farmers’ market farmers can increase their chances of operating successfully, and staying competitive in local food economies.
“I don’t think very many people understand that our food system absolutely is run by … a handful of transnational organizations, most significantly the supermarket chains,” he says.
“The farmers market represents thus far our best attempt at breaking that hegemonic control over the food system.”