The weekend of March 2 to 4, 2018, is your chance to learn more about the farmers’ market industry. The 19th annual BC Farmers’ Markets Conference, hosted at the Inn at Laurel Point in Victoria, will bring together market managers, farmers, small scale food processors, artisans, and agricultural and community leaders for a weekend of networking, education, and discussion.
The conference is hosted by the British Columbia Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM). BCAFM is “the only unified voice in the province for farmers’ markets, and also for the family farms that those markets represent,” says BCAFM President, Wylie Bystedt.
The BCAFM runs a variety of programs throughout the year and throughout the province and their marketing programs promote buying local food. “It doesn’t get much more ‘Buy BC’ than buying at a farmers’ market,” says Bystedt. They also operate the BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program Fund, a healthy eating initiative helping low-income families and seniors buy from participating markets. BCAFM also offers workshops and online webinars throughout the year.
The conference is the BCAFM’s primary education tool. “There’s nothing like actually being able to sit around a table and share ideas,” says Bystedt. The event is not just for market managers and community leaders to network, it’s also “a great time for actual producers to find out the tools of the trade,” says Bystedt. “How do you actually make a good looking display, what goes to pricing, what’s packaging?” The conference is open to anyone. Community leaders who want to start a market back home are encouraged to attend, as well as new farmers and growers interested in getting into a market.
This year’s conference boasts networking opportunities, including a banquet and 13 workshops on topics like waste-free markets, kids programming at farmers’ markets, and more. There will also be MarketSafe training for 50 participants, a food safety training program for farmers and food processors and producers. The workshops are chosen based on issues that arise during other sessions and workshops throughout the year. There is also a call for paper that goes out to members of the association and the committee picks workshops to add to the conference.
The conference always takes place as the growing season is just kicking off so growers can attend more easily. While this year’s conference will be in Victoria, the conference travels all over the province to provide better access for vendors and organizers. Bigger market representatives like those from White Rock, Vernon, and Kelowna mix in with smaller markets from places like Lillooet and Haida Gwaii.
“There’s a value for each end of the scale,” says Bystedt. “I think that the fact that they keep coming and keep sending new people every year to make sure that everyone is able to bring back something, it really speaks volumes about the quality of the content. Wherever the conference is, communities and markets are making an effort to be there so we need to make sure that we’re providing a quality for them.”
There are a variety of pass options available for anyone wishing to attend the conference. You can buy your tickets or become a sponsor at http://www.bcfarmersmarket.org/markets/bcafm-conference-agm
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