Optimism is blooming at the Kelowna Farmer and Crafter’s Market.
A new year, a new market manager and board—all at the same location of Dilworth and Springfield, across the street from Orchard Park Mall.
And, according to the vendors and visitors who made it to opening day on Wednesday, it’s all good.
Despite a series of relocation related controversies that saw previous farmers’ market political structures topple and restructure several times, everything now appears to be much calmer.
“We’ve been here 20 years and this is where we’ll always be,” said Peter Roy , noting he and his wife Carol have been a part of the market for 17 of those years.
And, gesturing at the smattering of vendors who were at the market for opening day, the local fruit and wine jelly canner pointed out that when he started there were times when a dozen vendors at the peak of summer was perfectly normal.
When summer hits its peak this year there will likely be nearly 200 vendors offering everything from peaches to pinot noir, along with cups and plates to serve them.
“People want to shop local now—especially for their fruits and vegetables,” Roy said.
the market offers plenty of opportunity to do just that.
Gisele Glover, who this season has been reinstated as market manager this season after Domenic Rampone stepped down from the position, said she’s spoken with vendors and they’re expecting a strong season given the early onset of spring.
That sentiment was echoed by vendors.
Gabriele Wesle of Green Croft Gardens has a tasty looking array of greens set up at the Wednesday morning market, and said she believes there will much more to come much sooner this year.
“I believe we will have a good season,” she said. “It almost feels like we’re three weeks ahead.”
Even the honey bees are getting an early wakeup call.
“The bee keepers have been called and told, ‘get ready we’re going to need you soon,'” she said, explaining that they are brought to orchards to pollinate.
While everything seems to be steaming along at a cheerful clip, there is still the matter of the two market buildings that helped spark division among market members.
Urban Square was pitched as a Pike Plave styled project to take over the BC Tree Fruits buidlings. Construction was expected to be well underway by now, but the sale didn’t close until mid-March.
A company called Marshall Park Developments paid somewhere in the neighbourhood of $5 million for the site. They have yet to come forward with a revised vision for the property.
Kelowna developer Gary Tebbutt was originally the face of that project, but he’s stepped back from the spotlight in recent months. His name is listed as the president of Marshall Park Developments, while Richard Kulhawe is the secretary and Jeff Schellenberg is the treasurer.
Meanwhile, across the city, the European style market Lambert Schmalz has pitched for the corner of Springfield and Benvoulin roads has also yet to get underway.
It has all the approvals needed to get going, but there is some work to be done with City of Kelowna planners relating to a future road-widening project.
Once that’s squared away, they intend to roll ahead.