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Laurie the pie man does brisk business at the Sweet Thea pie tent

Farmers market thriving at trial PNE locale

A new trial farmers’ market at Hastings Park is off to a good start thanks to its setting, unique in…

By Paolo Pietropaolo , in Feature story , on October 27, 2014 Tags: , , , ,

Residents of Hastings-Sunrise tempted by the lemon tarts at a new winter market

A new trial farmers’ market at Hastings Park is off to a good start thanks to its setting, unique in Vancouver.

The winter market is a pilot project by Vancouver Farmers Markets, the non-profit that operates seven weekly summer markets as well as the city’s only current winter market at Nat Bailey Stadium. On the new market’s first day on Oct. 5, people spent $22,000 at 28 stalls.

“That’s really good for a market of that size,” said Robyn Walters, who manages the market for Vancouver Farmers Markets.

If this year’s experiment goes well, the Hastings Park market could become Vancouver’s second winter market next year, providing more local food choices for residents of East Vancouver and North Burnaby from October to April.

Walters is optimistic about the market’s future because of its location, which became available when the PNE invited Vancouver Farmers Markets to establish a market at the fairgrounds.

The PNE is offering extras that other farmers’ markets don’t have. These include on-site electricity, free parking for vendors and market-goers, and a large communal tent to provide covered seating, all managed for the market by PNE staff.

Beautiful setting

Brightly coloured seasonal squash reflect the hues of autumn leaves overhead at the Hastings Park trial winter market
Brightly coloured seasonal squash are one of many local fresh produce items available at the market

It’s not just the logistics that are giving the market a good chance to succeed.

“What sticks out is how different this site is from our other markets. We’re usually on a street or a parking lot,” said Walters.

At Hastings Park, a line of tents wends its way around manicured city gardens by burbling fountains, under a sprawling canopy of plane trees.

“It’s a beautiful setting. It’s absolutely gorgeous,” said Hastings-Sunrise resident Monique Zander, who has come to the market every Sunday since it opened.

“This is one of my favourite parks in Vancouver.”

Fruits and vegetables selling well

People compare notes as they line up for sour cherry pies and brightly-coloured macarons at the Sweet Thea pie tent. They talk of the range of food on offer at the spacious site.

Such choice is important for a neighbourhood like Hastings-Sunrise, home to a mix that includes Portuguese, Italian and Vietnamese families.

“Those families have strong market cultures,” said Roberta La Quaglia, operations manager for Vancouver Farmers Markets. She noted that produce has sold very well at the market so far.

“When you move to a neighbourhood where markets are not as understood, you get a lot of observers,” she said. “They buy a coffee, they get a muffin and they walk around. Here, people are here to buy. The fruits and vegetables are the reason they’re here.”

The market organizers expect the number of vendors to rise to about 55 as summer markets wind down for the season. That would make this pilot project as big as the city’s largest markets at Trout Lake and in Kitsilano.

The trial market runs on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hastings Park until Nov. 30.