Domenic Rampone has been the Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market operations manager for a couple of weeks, and he’s loved every minute of it.
“It’s been awesome. It’s probably one of the best jobs I’ve had in my life,” said the longtime farmer.
“It’s vibrant. The customers are happy and the vendors are happy. And when you see children having fresh vegetables and fruit, watching the entertainment we have, it’s amazing.”
Rampone’s enthusiasm is tangible. Almost enough to distract from the controversy that plagued the market in recent months.
The market’s volunteer board of directors went through two major upheavals after divisions over a new location came to the fore.
Those have been put aside since the market’s high season started, but there are lingering questions about the future of the organization. In particular, if it will suffer when a new co-op of farmers that recently organized in the wake of board turmoil is introduced to the community and goes their own way.
“I think what has to happen is we have to keep the integrity of the market,” he said.
“My personal feeling is both the customers and the vendors like the current general location. It’s geographically in the centre of the city of Kelowna. But, whether we move or not… time will tell.”
Higher on the list of importance, he said, is ensuring that the communication between the farming community and those who attend the market continues to grow.
“I’m going to try and hold a regular meeting with city council, to keep them aware of what’s happening,” he said.
“Not just weekly updates, either. I want to talk about our products and how they’re grown. We don’t value food enough in this country. We should be proud of what we do here, and there are lots of things I can bring more awareness to the community.
He’d like to see small farm producers start trumpeting their value in a way small B.C. wineries once did.
“The B.C. Wine Institute did an awesome job bringing awareness about B.C. wine, in the last 25 years, and if we can do the same about local foods here that would be great,” he said.
The market operates every Saturday and Wednesday at the north-east corner of Dilworth Drive and Springfield Road. Rampone, who took over as operations manager from long-time manager Bob Callioux, said the season has been a busy and profitable one for the vendors.