Esquimalt’s Newfound Market Madness
Great movements sometimes have humble beginnings. The origins of the new Esquimalt Farmers’ Market, for instance, can be chalked up to an excess of raspberries. “ I had lots of them,” says Katrina Dwulit, the organizer, which ran its first season in 2015. “ All the neighbours got lots of raspberries.”
Once Dwulit ran out of neighbours, she contacted the Township of Esquimalt to see if she could run a farm stand on her front yard to sell the remainders. In order to sell the berries, Dwulit would have had to change a city bylaw. She figured it would be easier to just start a new market.
While Victoria is saturated with farmers’ markets, the craze never caught on in Esquimalt, where Dwulit moved in 2009. A previous attempt didn’t last long, and Dwulit noticed how she and other locals would often cross the bridge to attend markets in the city. Being an avid backyard gardener and pickler, she often talked about starting one with friends. She spoke with the Esquimalt Recreation Centre about using their space, and, equipped with her neighbourhood’s support and her grandmother’s pickle recipe, she was off.
“ The first market saw about 1,000 people,” she says, explaining how the managers of the Moss Street and Oaklands Sunset markets attended the opening. There was so much demand that organizers extended the season three weeks. “ There’s never enough farmers markets until you can buy all of your food locally.”
The Esquimalt market, which operates Thursday evenings, also offers a number of free vendor spaces to local farmers. “ These are real people that work all day long to make thisfood for you,” says Dwulit, “ and then come and sell it at the market that night.”
Despite its humble origins, the Esquimalt market aims to be a model of sustainability. Dwulit wants to make it a completely compostable event starting this year, when she will push for a ban on Styrofoam and plastic bags. “ We are open to the fact that there will be challenges,” she says. “ We want to be supportive to our vendors and make sure that the understanding is that we are doing this for the big picture.” In the future, Dwulit hopes to power music systems and vendors via solar energy.
The market has created its own local currency—Market Bucks. Last year, local businesses sponsored the market each week by donating $50 for these bucks. The notes were then donated to community organizations such as the Rainbow Kitchen, which provides hot meals to those in need, and the Esquimalt Neighbourhood House Society, which gives care and aid to those in the community. Local urban gardeners can also vend their backyard labours at the community table or donate the food for the market to sell.
While Esquimalt had a spotty past record of farmers markets, Dwulit’s efforts seem to have stuck. She chalks this up in part to the power of Facebook and other social media to spread the word throughout the community and connect citizens and growers committed to sustainable living. “
This year, we feel that we have created a very desirable market for both vendors and shoppers,” she says. “ We want to only be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
– Adrian Paradis