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Farmers' markets have tenuous hold on urban space

As farmers markets grow in popularity across the province, the biggest challenge they face is finding a permanent place in the urban fabric.

That's according to the new president of the B.C. Association of Farmers' Markets, who says many markets rely on year-to-year leases and have little long-term security.

"One of the comments from most markets is that the local communities aren't supporting and helping them out to find a place where they can set up and have their farmers' markets," said Bob Callioux, who became president of the board last week.

Callioux is also the manager of the Kelowna Farmers' and Crafters' Market, which draws up to 6,000 people a day in the summer and is currently on a year-to-year lease with the city. "It's kind of scary," he says.

Callioux says the market has proposed a permanent location on three to five acres of land in Kelowna that is part of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

He told The Tyee that, while they are still early in the process, "we're working with a developer and hopefully we can get the city and ALR and [agricultural] land commission on board and make this one a market that can be a showcase for all."

The Agricultural Land Commission Act allows ancillary uses of ALR land which include agri-tourism and retail sales, but the commission did not return Tyee calls inquiring if a farmers' market with multiple vendors would be permitted under the act.

According to Callioux there are approximately 115 farmers' markets in the province.

Currently, there is also a proposal on the table to create a permanent location for a Vancouver farmers' market and food hub -- known as New City Market -- on a city-owned lot in the False Creek flats area.

The city hasn't yet offered land for New City Market yet and does not plan to until the market's proponents have a business plan ready and governance structure in place.

Deputy Mayor Sadhu Johnston told this reporter recently that any commitments would be approved by city council first. "We remain enthusiastic about the project and are working to provide assistance as it proceeds," he said.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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