Former vendors at the Beaverlodge Farmer’s Market are exploring a new venue, citing concerns with inconsistent guidelines at the current market.
“We’re in the very-beginning stages of (starting a new market),” said former vendor, Heather Tillapaugh of Silk Purse Acres.
“Our goal is to be very welcoming to anybody and everybody - the current market limits who can come to the market to sell their items, based on who’s already selling those items.”
Brittni Hudson, who ended up renting a table there for just a few months, told the News an estimated 10 vendors have left, citing concerns about “inconsistencies” in rules around multiple vendors selling similar items and a variety of rental fees.
“Customers want variety and choices. I don’t hold any ill will toward the Beaverlodge market - we just wanted different things,” said Tillapaugh, whose operation 10 kilometres west of Beaverlodge grows various garden produce. She was a vendor of the farmer’s market from June to December 2020.
The Beaverlodge Farmer’s Market is one of more than 130 approved by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
Joyce Hatton, Beaverlodge Farmer’s Market president, confirmed the rules limit the number of vendors selling certain items.
“For example, baby blankets and quilts don’t sell well, so we try to limit (them),” Hatton said.
Slow-selling products at too many tables would be disadvantageous to vendors, she said.
Hatton said the market currently has approximately 14 vendors, and it’s typical to have fewer early in the year compared to Christmas, when there are up to 25.
Like Tillapaugh, Hudson objects to limits on vendors selling certain items.
“A lot of people sell the same thing, but they’re different styles and textures,” Hudson said.
Hudson said she signed on as vendor in late October with a variety of signs and decals and chose not to return in early February.
Shannon Murdock sold farm eggs and other items at the market, signing on in August 2020 and leaving in November.
She cited limits on types of products as a concern.
“Everybody should be able to succeed,” Murdock said.
“Any farmers market I’ve ever been to has the same item being sold by multiple vendors.”
Both Hudson and another former vendor, Sheena Hailstones, had concerns about discrepancies in table rentals. Hatton told the News that new vendors pay a weekly table rental of $20; after three months it drops to $15; three years in, table rental drops to $10 a week.
“We felt the vendors who were with us all the time deserved to have a break,” Hatton said.
“If they leave and come back, they pay full price again.”
Tillapaugh said she has been gauging support from community members for a new market and is in contact with Eileen Kotowich, farmers market specialist with the Alberta government.
Kotowich told the News it is possible for a town to have more than one approved farmers market.
Kotowich said where two markets exist in one community, they typically don’t go “head-to-head.”
“They have different times, different days of the week, serving a different clientele,” she said.
The application must include a business case demonstrating how the market would be viable if another is nearby, Kotowich said.
Tillapaugh said a business case for a second market can be made.
“The Beaverlodge market is currently the only market west of Grande Prairie,” she said.
“There’s a very wide area of people to bring into the market as vendors and as customers.”
Tillapaugh said the former vendors are considering either an indoor or outdoor venue and the market would likely be seasonal, from spring to early fall.
The application must be approved by the provincial government and Alberta Health Services, she said.
Tillapaugh said she is hopeful the applications can be complete and the market opened this spring.
She said there would also be start-up costs, and the former vendors may hold some fundraisers to achieve this.
The amount needed will depend on the location and if it already has the necessary amenities like tables, she said. If costs are minimal, fundraisers won’t be necessary, she added.
Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News