The BC Association of Farmers’ Markets is making it easier to source fresh local food, and one-of-a-kind items this summer with the re-launch of the BC Farmers’ Market Trail, the definitive guide to 145+ farmers’ markets across the province.

Photo Credit: Johnathon Knight

A free and easy-to-use online resource for locals and tourists, this is the most convenient way for people to find and buy local food and discover the best of what each community across BC has to offer. Every season, over 4000 local farmers and entrepreneurs attend farmers’ markets across the province to showcase the food and goods they’ve grown, made, baked, and raised.

It’s no secret that locally grown food is an important value for the overwhelming majority of British Columbians: recent research shows that:

  • 80% of BC shoppers look for and prefer purchasing food that supports their local economy,
  • 79% desire fresh food,
  • 77% factor in how safe the food they purchase is for consumption.

BC Farmers’ markets are all about supporting the local economy – contributing over $150 million in economic benefits annually  – with the markets serving as springboards for local farmers and makers to introduce their food and wares to their community.

Photo Credit: Thomas Nowaczynski

For example, did you know that popular grass-fed artisan yogurt company, Tree Island Yogurt, launched their thriving business only a few years ago as a vendor at the Comox Valley farmers’ market? 

To celebrate the relaunch of the BC Farmers’ Market Trail, I have been lucky enough to interview some of the incredible farmers who work so hard to bring us quality local produce.

First up is Johnathon Knight, Farmer at Woodgrain Farm in Hazelton, BC

Photo Credit: BC Organic Grower

What drew you to organic farming? Why Hazelton?

In answer to this question, Johnathon has previously written an excellent piece in BC Organic Grower. I have reproduced a taste of the article below or you can read the entire piece on the BC Organic Grower website.

If you walk out the back door of the little blue farmhouse at WoodGrain Farm, past the acre of market gardens and the old log outbuildings and barns, and back through the forest high along the banks of the Skeena River, there is wilderness. This is real wilderness, where one could follow ancient footpaths of the Gitxsan people and century-old telegraph trails hundreds of kilometers into the heart of the Sacred Headwaters, from where the three great salmon rivers of northern BC, the Skeena, Stikine, and Nass, flow.

I’ve always been drawn to places on the edge, interested in the transition between where one place ends and the next begins, whether a seashore or a mountainside. This valley is very much where the last patchwork of rural habitation meets the wide open wilderness of the northwest.

I wasn’t always planning on being a farmer, but knew I would one day end up on a homestead in a wild place. Yet I was aware that once you choose to live deliberately on a piece of land, you don’t do much else, and I had other lives to live first. During time spent living and travelling around Europe and India in my early twenties, I explored my relationship with food, particularly drawn to old methods of craft food production, culminating in an apprenticeship in organic bread making.

Continue reading in BC Organic Grower

Photo Credit: Jonathan Knight

How did you come to be involved with farmers markets?

We helped germinate the Hazelton market 10 years ago, the same year we moved onto the farm, and have been involved with the running of the market since, along with stints on the BV market board where we started vending regularly a couple of years later. Both our local markets are vendor-organized nonprofit cooperatives.

In what ways do Woodgrain Farm & farmers markets contribute to the local and the wider communities?

So many ways! Farmers’ markets are a catalyst for local food production and cottage industry, they’re an excellent low-barrier incubator of small-scale entrepreneurship, and they provide much fresher food than anything available in town. Both our markets are participants in the Ministry of Health funded (and BC Association of Farmers’ Markets administered) Nutritional Coupon Program, which puts money to buy fresh food into the hands of people in our community with perhaps the most to benefit from it – an excellent proactive use of healthcare dollars.

What can visitors to the Hazelton and BV Farmers Markets expect?

An authentic experience, everything at the market is grown, made or baked by the person you are chatting with. It’s a great place to get the flavour of the community, see what’s in season and what grows particularly well here, and pick up some truly unique handcrafted goods while you’re at it. Not to mention hang out with the locals, get a bite, and check out some live local musicians.

Photo Credit: BC Farmers Market Trail & Webmeister Bud

What tips would you share to ensure new farmers market visitors have the best possible experience?

Shop early! Farmers work hard to get their produce to market in peak condition, so for the full selection and freshest veggies get down there at the start of the market when the action is. We aim to have a good variety for the duration of the market, but once it’s picked, it’s picked so it’ll likely be slender pickings later on.