Kelowna farmers’ market shake-up leaves relocation plans up in the air

A surprise change in leadership is expected to get all involved back on track.

Relationships at the Kelowna Farmers’ Market were recently fractured as discussions about a potential relocation reached an impasse, but a surprise change in leadership is expected to get all involved back on track.

It’s just not yet clear where that track leads, said new market president Rachelle Zelaney, explaining that plans to move the market to a downtown site are currently on hold.

Zelaney rose in status from vice-president to president of the volunteer board that oversees the market after the abrupt Thursday evening resignation of Wolfe Wesle.

A meeting had been called that night so vendors could vote on whether  Wesle and four members of the executive should be impeached for their recent actions around a proposed relocation.

Under fire was the board’s decision to go ahead with a move to a north end site that the majority of vendors had voted against.

Wesle stepped down, but the vote was still taken.

“They would have had to get 75 per cent (consensus) to impeach,” said Zelaney. “It was 66 per cent.”

There may not have been an official ousting, but Zelaney said the vendors sent a clear message about what they want, and for the time being it’s not the Urban Square site.

“It’s important to move forward as a group. It’s important to mend the rift,” Zelaney said Monday.

“I think the necessity to find a new permanent home is still there.

“Whether that’s Urban Square or somewhere else, we need to make the best decision for the society as a whole and right now I’m not sure what that means.”

What’s clear is there is still need for a forever-home.

Orchard Park mall has only granted a year-to-year lease of the property where the market currently resides and security is required for long-term sustainability, Zelaney explained.

“If they re-evaluate what they want, we need to have an alternative. We can’t be without a home. It’s our livelihood,” she said.

Then there’s the issue of growth.

“We are busting at the seams,” she said, adding there are mornings where vendors are turned away.

In the last six years, the market society has examined at least 20 different sites, she said, and none of them have worked.

Urban Square is still a possibility, but one that will be examined down the road with the full participation of market members.

“We want this market to continue, and we’d like to see the memberships stay intact,” said Zelaney.

“We’re going to keep trucking forward.”




Kelowna Capital News