Kelowna may soon have a public market in the north end where local foodies can shop and farmers will sell their wares.
“We formed the Okanagan Food Hub Co-Operative in March,” said Wolf Wesle, of Green Croft Gardens and a regular contributer to the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market.
“Geographically the co-op covers the area from Salmon Arm to the border in the South Okanagan, and the centre is in Kelowna. And now we have been approached by a developer that has a building and location and they think a co-op would go well there.”
Wesle is currently staying mum on the address, but says it revealed next Thursday when a meeting aimed at sussing out support for the co-op both among farmers and consumers alike will be held.
Another cause for the cautious approach is that the last time Kelowna seemed poised to have a food co-op, chaos ensued.
Nearly three years ago a plan for a Granville Island type structure at the old BC Tree Fruit packinghouse was proposed. As some made a push for the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters market to relocate to the North End relationships fractured and volunteer boards rose and fell. In the end, the developer behind the market plan never followed through and the status quo persevered.
It was a chaotic stretch of time that Wesle was right in the middle of.
“The current co-op has grown out of that disastrous ending,” said Wesle. “The mistake we made was we assumed that everybody wants to grow their business and that just isn’t so … but there are a lot of farmers who find that two markets at the market isn’t enough anymore.”
Many of those farmers have already joined the co-op. Wesle stressed that they still will be able to sell their wares at the local market and there’s more than enough opportunities for both ventures to exist. Studies suggest that farmers markets only account for one-and-a-half per cent of all grocery dollars spent in a community.
And on the developer side of the equation, Wesle said the proposal is more realistic.
“It’s smaller. The building at this point is a large building with a large outdoor portion that goes with it,” he said. “We will not be using all of the building and we will be looking for other interested parties to move in.”
Some examples that have been discussed are a fish store, or coffee roasters and bakery.
To get to that point, though, the co op needs to raise enough support and money to gain access to federal government grant funds.
The co-op board is working with a consultancy group who has done farmers market work with Kamloops and Vancouver farmers markets, and has a plan in place.
Once everything is up and running, the board will hire a manager to run the store.
The meeting will be held Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. at Sandhill Winery. Anyone interested in hearing more, signing up and possibly investing is welcome.