The Uptown Urban Market in Port Alberni was inspired by the idea that good food and good food knowledge should be shared—a simple concept that Marie Knoll and Keith Ambrose wanted to embrace in their everyday life. “We want to know our food sources, and we felt it only natural to share that information with others,” says Knoll. “We realized that if we were to stay marketing that, we would have to undertake this ourselves.”

After preparing meals for a fast food restaurant, Ambrose decided to focus on a diet of foods he could trust and wanted to get to know the sources nearby, while Knoll grew up with hunting and harvesting. She gained a degree in horticulture, specializing in greenhouse crop management. She started growing her own collection of plants years ago, and she now specializes on medicinal and culinary herbs.

Ambrose and Knoll started small, with just one vendor in an undesirable location, but soon they realized the market’s potential to enhance knowledge and skills of vendors and the public. “It was decided early on that we would provide the space and services so vendors could put their product in front of the public at no cost,” says Ambrose.

The market features the talents of many individuals: cooks, pie makers, bakers, vegetable and plant growers, artisans, artists, and more. “Our market is someplace that we encourage contact between parties of a like interest, based on a non-competitive idealism,” says Knoll. “We believe in supporting and helping local business and business people grow.”

This year workshops were added to the market model. They put together a sustainable living series of classes that is hosted by the market but includes many talented individuals from the community as instructors. The classes were designed to teach and empower individuals with the skills necessary to “do it yourself.”

“Feel good about learning a new skill, and then pay forward that knowledge to others,” says Knoll. “This is part of our pay forward positive attitude that we live by and have built our market model with.”

— Shayna Kuffert

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