WATCH: With the growing season kicking into full swing, farmers markets are popping up in communities Island wide. The province is now making them more accessible to low-income households, through a new coupon program and as Skye Ryan reports it’s contributing to the soaring business at one of the Island’s largest farmers markets near Nanaimo.
As market Sunday got underway in Cedar, Leanna Graves wooed every passing person with her locally famous soups.
“Chicken Gumbo,” Graves offered one customer.
“This is the testing ground,” said the Duncan resident whose family is behind Ed’s Soup Shack.
“That’s exactly it,” said Graves.
Thanks to the following Ed’s Soup Shack has gained at Farmers Market’s, it’s now selling in stores.
“My Dad is Ed,” said Graves.
“These are all of my mom’s recipes. My husband and I make them and sell them and we started here at the Farmers Market’s and now we’re headed into stores so we’re hitting the big leagues now.”
Business is booming at the next stall over too at Fat Chili Farms, where owner Shani Farbout’s every sale goes towards his kids’ university.
“I’m saving for my kids education,” said Barbout.
“Just pays for the education for the kids.”
It’s a model that is clearly resonating with consumers. Sales are growing as fast as the produce that fills the market.
“It’s been non-stop,” said Celeste Van Prattenborg of Honey Pot Wraps.
“So I guess that’s a good problem to have right.”
Cedar’s market alone has nearly tripled in size in the past six years.
Now the province is expanding its weekly coupon program for low-income households in B.C.. Now an additional 700 residents will be able to use coupons at Farmers Markets to access locally grown and made food.
In 2018 3900 households, of which many are pregnant or single mothers and seniors, accessed the program.
“It works because it’s fresh local food,” said President of the Cedar Farmer’s Market Bill Clay.
“And people just love the ambiance.”
Leanna Graves said it’s equal parts business and pleasure.
“It’s fantastic,” said Graves.
“It’s so much fun.”
As a result Vancouver Island Farmers Markets are expected to keep growing, as access and demand increases.