Macleod Trail market attracting authentic producers, shunning middlemen
Several farmers and vendors from the Calgary Farmers’ Market have banded together to create a new market in the city’s southwest — with a focus to support local producers, rather than retail middlemen.
“Farmers’ markets were originally created for the little producer to cut the middlemen out and sell directly to the consumer and make a small living,” says Gert Lund, who owns Lund Organic Farms and is instrumental in the startup. “Somehow it has strayed from that and we’d like to go back to that.”
A six-person group has applied for a city development permit to move into the former Shaganappi car dealership at 77th Avenue and Macleod Trail S. , south of Chinook Mall. According to the application, the large building could hold up to 45 indoor vendors and an additional 50 outdoor vendors during the summer, with plenty of parking space. Vendors plan to sell a variety of goods, mostly organic produce and meats, homemade canned goods, baked goods, local wines and prepared ethnic meals, as well as handmade jewelry, soaps and artwork.
“We started planning last June,” says Tim Hoven, organizer and co-owner of organic beef producer Hoven Farms. “It’s been a long process even to get just to where we are today.”
Organizers are aiming to open the Kingsland Farmers’ Market on June 1, and as vendors sign on throughout the summer, it could be in full swing by Thanksgiving weekend. “It might even be just an outdoor market one or two days a week, but we want to get going on this,” Hoven says.
The group plans to eventually operate four days a week, Thursdays through Sundays, and employ 60 to 100 people. Hoven says the market will focus on Alberta food producers and artisans and will not be a flea market environment selling “mass-produced Chinese goods.”
“Everyone in this market has to make it, bake it or grow it. We want only one degree of separation,” he says, adding that farmers are good at growing food, but not so good at marketing and distribution. “That’s not slamming farmers. I think most farmers would agree with that, but we’re looking at… helping solve those two problems for local farmers.”
So far, Hoven has been hesitant to approach all vendors at the Calgary Farmers’ Market about jumping onboard. “We just want to make sure everything is past the foul-up stage,” he says about city approval. “We don’t want people to be giving us money when we still don’t have all the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted.” The group has signed a lease with the option to purchase. “Our goal is to be there for a long, long time.”
Meanwhile, the Calgary Farmers’ Market has until November 30 to vacate the Currie Barracks. Some vendors will be relocating to the Heritage Market on Blackfoot Trail S.E. — so long as they jointly pay $2.5 million for the new location’s planned $5 million renovation. That market is now waiting for the city to approve the development permit.
“There will be a whole lot of the existing farmers at the Calgary Farmers’ Market who will be leaving,” says Lund. The Calgary Farmers’ Market board has made some “serious mistakes over the years,” says Lund. “I don’t really see any willingness to change their leadership style and here’s my chance to break out of it.”
A spokesperson for the Calgary Farmers' Market says rumours of the new market have been swirling. "They've got a long, long, long road to haul," says Ken Aylesworth.
Several vendors at the Calgary Farmers’ Market have been discouraged about how the market has been run, voicing dissatisfaction about the board’s poor communication and the bullying of outspoken vendors , sometimes slapping vendors with hefty fines. As well, several board members don’t grow their products; instead, they purchase their goods and resell them.
Several vendors recently told Fast Forward Weekly they know about the new market’s plans and may join it, but they are hesitant to publicly speak about their business plans for fear of repercussions from the board.
“It’s very dangerous for us with the pressure from the board members; it’s terrible,” says one vendor. “We have no lease in this market. It’s only a licence agreement and they can kick me out in one or two months. I don’t want to make any waves. I would like to stay in peace until the end of the market.”
Another vendor says the Calgary Farmers’ Market’s proposed location on Blackfoot Trail S.E. isn’t ideal because it isn’t so central and building renovations are too exorbitant for many vendors.
Jos Rehli, owner of Rustic Sourdough Bakery, says he will not be moving with the Calgary Farmers’ Market and would seriously consider joining the Kingsland market. “I’ve been approached by some vendors, but nothing has been finalized yet,” he says. “I will probably have a second location in Inglewood, but if a third farmers’ market comes about and it makes sense, then I will do it.”
Organizers of the proposed Macleod Trail S. market have a few issues to iron out, as well. The group has received positive responses from community and condominium associations in the area of Kingsland, but there are some concerns about traffic problems, says Hoven. They are currently waiting for results from a traffic study, which will soon be completed, at which point they will sit down with the city and the community to address any concerns.
Unlike the Calgary Farmers’ Market, the Kingsland market won’t run as a co-operative, but rather the six-person group will own and run the market and lease spaces to vendors, Hoven says, adding, “It’s not to just make it my market, but Calgary’s market and the vendors’ market.”