For 25 years, the James Bay Market has served as the livelihood for many of the South Island’s local farmers, artisans and vendors.

From fresh produce to organic salsa, and even greeting cards featuring watermelon-eating pigs, the James Bay Market is the community’s main hub for buying local.

“These are my number one best selling cards at my booth,” said Joan Mccorry, holding up two of her watermelon-eating pig cards. “I’ve been coming here for ten years selling my greeting cards so it’s a wonderful neighbourhood community.”

This summer, due to COVID-19, the market looks significantly different with no live music and physical distancing guidelines in place. It wasn’t that long ago that the future of the market was unclear due to the pandemic, but volunteers like Carole Elliot were adamant about keeping the Saturday James Bay tradition alive.

“We scrambled. We weren’t sure in the beginning what would happen and we had to scramble and all the rules and regulations have changed on us a couple of times, but we’re happy we’re here,” said Elliot, who is the chair of the James Bay Market.

The James Bay Market has been fully open for less than a month, and each week vendors say more and more customers are getting used to their old routine.

“[We are] definitely seeing an improvement of a lot of locals coming out and supporting local markets and supporting the local vendors,” said Larry Freeman, co-owner of Sew Cute Creations.

“[It has been] very well received,” added Elliot. “They come every week and we have lineups when the market opens and the neighbourhood has been wonderful to us.”

Jessica Duncan, owner of Singing Bowl Granola, is among those who are thankful to be back.

“This is where I developed community, through the business and through the markets,” Duncan said.

In fact, she’s so thankful that she decided to send positive messages to her customers. Inside each box she sells is a thank you to her customers and this week’s note has a now-famous quote from B.C.’s provincial health officer.

“Inside each box we’ve written a thank you note and this week it says ‘Be kind, be calm and be safe,'” said Duncan, citing the famous words of Dr. Bonnie Henry.

British Columbia’s beloved top doctor recently stopped by the James Bay Market, which caught the attention of many including Duncan.

“I couldn’t help myself and I ran out with a box of granola and gave it to her and thanked her for all the amazing work she’s done,” said Duncan, who calls Henry a personal hero of hers.

The James Bay Market runs every Saturday on the corner of Menzies St. and Superior St. from  9 a.m. to 3 p.m. until Sept. 26.

Kevin Charach