In Hollyhock, SVI

At the 2016 Social Venture Institute Vancouver Farmers Markets (VFM) Executive Director Tara MacDonald was invited to share a business challenge in an intimate Business Problem Solving Session with an informal group of experts and peers. A first time attendee at the Social Venture Institute, VFM aims to support small farm production, nourish people and connect neighbours. Since its founding in 1995, VFM has grown to become one of Canada’s leading farmers’ markets, with eight weekly markets, 455,000 shoppers per year, and supporting annual vendor sales of $8.17 million.

Image: Steveston Farmers and Artisans Market / Facebook









Their session began with the question “How can we continue to grow the regional food system as a temporary organization with no infrastructure or long term permits?” VFM has accomplished a great deal in this area but has reached a plateau operating under a system structured as a ‘temporary special event’.

VFM sees itself as an incubator for small local food businesses and part of a larger movement to grow the regional food system.

The conversation that began in that session is still continuing several months later. The resulting connections have been paying off. VFM connected to “Feeding Growth” at SVI, an initiative started by UBC Farm, Vancity, and Fluid Creative. They are promoting it with their vendors, and collaborating to move as many businesses as possible in the regional food system forward.

One of the biggest insights that came out of the session for Tara was an affirmation that VFM isn’t a business with a specific problem but rather a business that represents 100’s of small businesses with the many challenges each brings to the table. The collective effort is driving large scale systemic change towards increasing access within the regional food system.

Her advice to newcomers at SVI? “Jump in with both feet and use it for all it’s worth!” For her it was the beginning of important and rich conversations with people who provide deep expertise, perspective, and the reinforcement of good instincts and ideas.

Throughout the winter months they host two weekly farmer’s markets, at Nat Bailey on Saturday’s and at Hastings Park on Sunday’s. This month both the winter markets host Food Truck February – four weeks of tasty eats with zero waste – all showcasing the huge bounty of fresh local produce and products available year round!

VFM has just launched VFM Direct, a group of farmers and producers who are passionate about growing and making local food. It’s a new way to shop for local food – directly from several farmers through a single channel.  With deliveries from the Fraser Valley into Metro Vancouver twice a week you can always have fresh local products on hand. “VFM Direct gives small producers in the Fraser Valley something they’d never be able to do on their own: operate at an economy of scale, sell food at fair prices and get it into the hands of buyers across Metro Vancouver. It’s an advantage for everyone–farmers can work efficiently and buyers have access to our products.” Loren Taves, Owner/Operator, Taves Family Farm/The Apple Barn. 

Interested in VFM Direct? You’ll find all the details here.

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Joel SolomonThe Alinker Bike