Sechelt Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market is the largest Farmers’ Market on the Lower Sunshine Coast. Celebrating 27 years of operations, you can find them in beautiful downtown Sechelt every Saturday from April through September. With over 60 vendors on hand from April through September, the Sechelt Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market proudly stands as the largest outdoor market on the Sunshine Coast – rain or shine. The focus has remained on hyper-local food and art ever since a handful of local farmers and artists began this market more than 25 years ago. Because of this, food producers from throughout the Sechelt Peninsula have proudly called this market home ever since. Supplying the community with garden-fresh produce, fresh seafood, craft beer and spirits, baked goods, fresh-cut flowers, and artisan crafts every Saturday morning. The Sechelt Farmers’ & Artisans Market has become an integral part of Sechelt’s summer social calendar.
You can now also order online from participating vendors! The Sechelt Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market is also excited to offer a seasonal opportunity to shop from local artisan vendors for the holidays – they will be running two Farmers’ Market weekends – November 28th and December 5th – at their usual downtown location on Cowrie Street, rain or shine. Since the market is an essential service, they will be guaranteed to run. The market is opening up to vendors beyond its membership, so it will reach a wider audience this year, and provide a much needed opportunity to artisans and food producers who have been especially hard hit this year due to COVID-19.
Question: How are you supporting other local businesses?
Answer: First and foremost, we sell 100% local grown and local made products. And they are hyper-local; all the vendors are from the Sunshine Coast. In a regular year, we have about 65 vendors. We prioritize local agricultural products or manufactured food products (including alcohol), as well as featuring many of the talented local artisans of the Sunshine Coast.
We’re also a bit of small business incubator. We provide the opportunity for vendors to test their products for relatively low cost, with wide exposure to consumers. The biggest success to date has been Holy Crap, based in Gibsons. They sold their first bag at our market, and are now household name, available at stores everywhere. They were even on Dragon’s Den! The trend lately is that a lot of the merchants in downtown Sechelt are now selling products from many of our vendors. We love that they are available in between markets and in the winter months, and that we provide a stepping stone for vendors to move into other retail opportunities.
All our market vendors are 100% local, and we also make sure all of the services we purchase as an organization are made with local businesses where ever possible. All of them are based in BC. We get most of our printing done at Sechelt Sign and Printing, we advertise in the local papers (The Local Weekly or the The Coast Reporter), BC Ferries, the Purple Banner Guide, Sunshine Coast Tourist Guide and the North Shore News Sunshine Coast Edition, we bank at the local credit union (Sunshine Coast Credit Union), our insurance is from Western Financial Groups (based in Alberta) and many of our vendors source inputs from many local businesses.
We also support our vendors through our work with the BC Association of Farmer’s Markets. Through our membership, we can offer our members discounts on insurance, and seeds from West Coast Seeds, and other vendor member sponsors. Last year (2019) BCAFM added the Sunshine Coast to the BC Farmers’ Market Trail initiative which promotes tourism and markets in the region.
Question: What social and environmental practices are you proud of?
Answer: Our market has a large and measurable economic impact on the coast. Our economic impact survey shows that in 2020 alone we created $1.2 million in spending with local producers. We also provide a significant draw for people to come downtown, and that has a spill-on effect with local businesses in the area. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we also supported our vendors to get online really quickly to help them maintain sales and revenue in uncertain times.
We aim to treat our employees well. We pay above minimum wage to our staff and summer students, with the goal of paying a living wage. We conduct a lot of advocacy work on the coast, especially for food-related issues. We support the Purple Banner Art Tour, we provide bursaries to local schools, and we coordinate the farmer’s market nutrition coupon program to provide healthy local food to those in need. In the 8 years we’ve been at our downtown location, we’ve redeemed $140K in coupons that go directly to the most vulnerable and food insecure people in our community.
Recognizing that the market is a draw, we decided early to give gave away masks and sanitizer at the market to be socially responsible. We were one of the first area retailers to ask employees, volunteers and customers to wear a mask.
We collaborate to support local producers, artisans, businesses and the community whenever possible. We work with the District of Sechelt, the Sechelt Downtown Business Association, and various stakeholders in the community to co-organize events outside of the market such as Canada Day and the Bright Nights Christmas events, giving vendors as many opportunities as possible. We do cross promotion with local businesses through the SDBA, promoting where they can buy our vendor’s products outside of market days.
On the environment side, the Sechelt Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market works on strengthening the local food economy. The market has a significant role in advocating for and enabling local food producers and helping them to succeed. We also advocate for sustainable growth and believe that a healthy market is only realized through a healthy community – financially and socially. We encourage vendors to take environmentally friendly steps such as reducing plastic bags and packaging and sourcing local and earth-friendly inputs. We have worked with Boomerang Bags to raise awareness in the community about reusables and have also hosted recycling events during the market. There are also compost options provided by Salish Soils at various events that we help organize.
This has been a challenging year for businesses in BC and around the world. It has shown us the true value of local commerce and despite the hard times we look forward to a community who more strongly supports and appreciates the buy local movement.
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