The Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market started with a strong summer, but the majority of it was marred by an unprecedented heatwave, wildfires, and heavy smoke.
Award-winning market manager Frances Callahan said everyone felt good at the beginning of the season.
“We started off very strong this year. It was a really really good season to start. June, July, good season,” she said.
“But then the heat came, fires came, and we really saw a big difference in the farmers’ market.”
Compared to last year, Callahan said that the market was starting to buzz with activity and people again like it used to before COVID-19 restrictions came back to the Central Okanagan, followed closely by the wildfire season.
“In July, the tourism was so strong and the market was so busy,” she said.
However, despite the seasons’ trials, this year still yielded a better profit for the market’s vendors compared to last year, according to Callahan.
“I think that’s because it felt more open. People felt they could come out more, people felt happier this year compared to last year.”
Vendors at the market shared Callahan’s statements. Steve Forbes, co-owner and co-operator of the Forbes Family Farms based in Oliver, said the summer started out very well for everyone.
But once the heat set in, it became difficult to manage the crops while also selling at the market.
“For sure, the heat affected the quality and volume of crops. The ground crops, especially, were a big issue this year,” he said.
“We were all wilting in the heat and so was the produce. There was the lack of customers too because no one wanted to come out in the heat as well as the smoke.”
Forbes added, that there were also challenges with picking the produce due to the lack of fruit pickers who could help.
Gambell Farms owner Andrew Gambell said, the heat took a toll on his crops, losing 20 to 30 per cent of his apples, and between 30 to 50 per cent of his cherry harvest, depending on the variety.
“It was a real tough year. As a cherry grower, normally, we worry about rain damage,” he said.
“But we learned this year that heat damage is way worse than rain damage.”
His farm lost some crops as well due to the drought: the farm ran out of water but when the water did come back, some of the trees weren’t absorbing enough water to restore them, leaving them no choice but to get rid of them.
The farmers’ and crafters’ market will close out its season at the end of October but despite more time to recoup, Gambell said he doesn’t see it getting better by then.
“We’ve been coming to the market for 25 years or so and from experience, October’s definitely a slow one,” he said.
“But there’s next year. That’s what we’re looking forward to.”
The Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market is located at the corner of Dilworth Drive and Springfield Road, across Orchard Park Mall.