The Pleasant Valley Community Market should stay in Steelhead Park and it should stay a member of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM), said Houston Link to Learning’s Marian Ells.
Ells presented her arguments at last Tuesday’s council meeting, saying that Steelhead Park “is simply perfect,” and membership in the BCAFM allows her access to thousands of dollars in food coupons that help people in need.
Ells said that Houston receives $4,472 through these coupons, and spends $600 to support Link to Learning with the administration of the program. They distributed the rest of the funds in coupons.
“We distributed 1,335 coupons and we had an 84 per cent redemption rate, so that’s $3,372 spent at the market,” she said.
Families and individuals can register for these coupons and receive $15 to $30, according to Ells’s presentation.
She warns that if the farmers’ market ends its membership in the BCAFM, Link to Learning cannot apply for the coupon program again.
“This would mean $3,372 would not be available to families in Houston,” she said.
Under the rules of the BCAFM, vendors can only sell foodstuff. After becoming the new organizers of the market, the Houston Public Library justified that they wanted to stop the BCAFM membership so that the market can support artisans, cottage industries and clubs.
Ells opposes this idea, stating that a craft market would only appeal to a certain socio-economic group.
“We believe it would leave out a huge chunk of our community,” she said.
The Library also wanted to move the market to Jamie Baxter Park because of its size and ability to host more vendors.
However, Ells believes that Steelhead Park is more suitable because of its location, allowing it to attract passing traffic.
“Every week, there’s visitors from all over the world,” she said. “I do realize it’s not meant to be a tourist attraction, but if we’re going to grow the economy in the community, certainly doesn’t hurt the vendors or the other community businesses to have passersby.
“We don’t believe that residents will see the market behind the library. We think only some residents would.”
Ells also points out that Steelhead Park has parking for RVs, is located in a more commercial area and has a dog run right beside it.
Ells said she has discussed her concerns with the Library but did not get a favourable response.
Library director Toni McKilligan feels confident that she can raise more than the $4,472 the BCAFM provides by seeking the help of other organizations to ensure food coupons continue. McKilligan said she has $2,600 already.
“We are fairly confident that we will be able to add another $3,000 or $3,500,” she said. “I don’t think it will be difficult. We have several options, we might be able to do more.”
She said once council makes a decision on her proposals, only then can she move forward with pursuing these leads.
McKilligan also argues that her past experience showed her that tourist dollars adds up to little.
“Tourists don’t spend that much money at our market,” said McKilligan. “It’s not easy to see where to park and big rigs like bigger RVs … when the market is there and there’s a lot of cars there, they don’t even stop.”
McKilligan also said having it next to the library allows for washroom facilities and hand washing – required by Northern Health, WiFi for card transactions, and programs for children while their parents browse. The library could also host the market indoors during the colder months.