Houston Link to Learning held its first Farmers’ Market at Steelhead Park on Friday, June 10 after its application for a permit was approved by council on Tuesday, June 7. The non-profit literacy organization offers various adult family literacy programs in the community including food skills and a family nutrition program. Manager Marian Ells says the Farmers’ Market permit is a welcome addition.
“We’ve had a community garden for a few years, and through the garden we connected to the Farmers’ Market and sold some of our produce,” said Ells. “This connects us to the market through the nutrition program that has coupons for families that need them in the community to spend at the market, so it is a perfect match.”
Link to Learning this year built 13 new raised beds in a new community garden. This is in addition to 36 original beds. Ells says they are all in use this year. She’s been seeing an increased interest in gardens across the community. With the pending closure of the SuperValu store, she hopes people will see an opportunity for fresh produce and turn out to support the Farmer’s Market.
Recently, Healthy Options for People and the Earth Society folded, and stepped down from its role in holding the Farmers’ Markets. The Link to Learning application to continue the Farmers’ Market in the same location and with the same approach was chosen by council over an application for a Community Market permit to be held near the Library.
The difference between the two market concepts is the rule for local products that govern a Farmers’ Market as part of the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets. “To be part of a Farmers’ Market, your goods must be 100 per cent made, baked, grown or raised locally,” said Ells. “We thought it was very important to keep that connection with the BCAFM, and we also wanted to keep that concept as well as the location of the market at Steelhead Park.” Ells said she believes in the idea of a Community Market too, and she hopes that idea does continue in Houston.
“Our idea was to allow more small businesses to become involved in the market, to create a bigger presence,” said Library Board member Miake Elliott. “That means more than local food and local crafts, it means third-party businesses (with products made outside the local area).” Elliot led the application for the Community Market. Since the idea was not supported by council, and the library location was not accepted, Elliot said it is now up to the community market vendors to decide whether the idea will be tried again, and where.
Former members of HOPE have moved on to new projects, according to former HOPE chair Cindy Verbeek. “We feel we have passed the baton to some capable people and the purpose of the organization has been fulfilled,” she said. “We had a great 10 years of doing great work in the community, and many of us have moved on to other exciting projects.”
Verbeek is working with a fish hatchery and nature park centre project. Last year the project participants released 4,400 salmon into a number of different watersheds in the area. In a meeting last Wednesday, this group of upper Bulkley River stream keepers determined they would continue the project to release more salmon this year. “We’ll have more information about this project in the near future,” she said.