Salt Spring Island – A Favorite Stop on the North American Farmers’ Market Tour

By Erin Staley


Giddy with excitement, the Old Town Farmers’ Market-Tianguis Cultural (OTFM) team made our way straight for the Salt Spring Island Farmers Market and the island’s annual fall fair. It is one of our favorites, a highlight on our idea-collecting North American Farmers’ Market Tour.
This long-time Salt Spring Island weekend attraction dates back to the mid-70s, a time anyone could sell anything. Vendors were known to “park and sell” peddling just-picked produce, handmade crafts and even furniture pieces from the hood or trunk of their cars. Although vendors have now traded their vehicular display cases for tables and tents, the Salt Spring Island Farmers Market (SSIFM) continues to spotlight the ingenuity of the Island’s entrepreneurial residents. It is a major social event built around the “make it, bake it, grow it” philosophy. In fact, it is this philosophy that inspired our own producer-only market.
“The SSIFM is one of my favorites because it focuses on local producers. Only individuals who live on the island are permitted to vend at the market.” says Charlotte Semple, a Canadian native and the OTFM founder. “Visitors select from endless varieties of fruits, vegetables, artisan crafts and homemade baked goods either grown or made by local farmers and venders.”
After grabbing a bite and listening to the toe-tappin’ tunes of local musicians, we wandered through the aisles of artisan crafts and goods. Homemade soaps, pottery and glass work displays were at the top of our must-see list. Weavers amazed us by fashioning sweaters and scarves made from sheep’s wool, and we loved the entrepreneurial kids who sold cookies or performed Vegas-style magic tricks.
Because our mission is to gather innovative ideas to help our OTFM vendors and community, we visited with SSIFM vendors and volunteers. We always knew the Market stimulated the local economy, but we were surprised when we did the math – an estimated $3 to $4.8 million each year. Wow! No wonder the community is prospering and vendors are able to fulfill their dreams by opening a store or becoming a wholesaler for off-island businesses. We were proud to be a part of the SSIFM’s success and wished them the best for the remainder of the season.
The Salt Spring Fall Fair was next on our fun-filled itinerary. This year’s theme was “Pirates of the Carrots and Beans,” and everyone got into the spirit with creative costumes and colorful decorations. Kids made a beeline to the petting zoo, the fair rides and the zucchini car races while adults “oohed and aahed” over the antique cars and farm equipment. Cheers went up for the best baking, photography and sewing competitors, but it was the “biggest pumpkin” and “best wine” that brought the crowd to its feet.
As expected, the Salt Spring Island Farmers Market and annual Fall Fair was a huge hit. The Island’s sense of community and entrepreneurial spirit continues to inspire us. With only two more months until our season opener, we are more excited than ever to share these new ideas with our vendors and “make it, bake it, grow it” shoppers just like you.
Stay tuned as we bring you more juicy tidbits from the North American Farmers’ Market Tour. And be sure to join us as the Old Town Farmers’ Market-Tianguis Cultural starts its new season on Saturday, November Second. Located along Basilio Badillo between Olas Altas and Ignacio Vallarta, the Market is open every Saturday from 9:30 am to 2 pm from the first Saturday in November to the last Saturday in May.

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