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Frustration grows as Vernon raises rates on farmers market

Fewer vendors able to afford booths as rent of parking lot nearly triples, further tripling over next 10 years
Zelaney Farms is one of dozens of vendors at the Vernon Farmers’ Market that is being impacted by astronomical pricing for rental space. (Bowen Assman- Morning Star)

The Vernon Farmers’ Market (VFM) has been a staple in the community for decades, helping boost the notoriety of local vendors and providing customers with fresh farm-to-table options.

However, the amount of vendors have been shrinking in recent months, with the City of Vernon hiking prices on rental spaces at the markets.

According to Rachelle Zelaney, owner of Zelaney Farms and VFM’s president, in prior years, the market was granted a five year lease at zero dollars.

“The city council at that point was really supportive of the VFM and saw the value of what we bring to the community,” said Zelaney.

Currently, VFM runs twice a week, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. from the Kal Tire Place parking lot, which is on public property owned by the city. Vendors rent out space on a yearly or multi-year basis, for the right to set up a stand at the market.

“Last year, we paid around $4,000 for rental fees for the parking lot, which we ran two mornings a week, where there is nothing else going on for several months,” Zelaney said. “That was very reasonable, as we were able to do around 55 markets last year.”

This year, however, the price nearly tripled, to a cost of $11,700.

Zelaney stated that, although the hike seemed steep, she believed it reasonable, calling it a fair amount for what the vendors receive for an hourly rental.

However, the city has recently asked VFM to commit to a 10-year lease, where the costs would triple, totalling close to $30,000 by 2033.

“It’s a bit of a shock,” she said. “We have already lost vendors this year who, because we (VFM) had to increase our stall fees, found it too costly.

“It is reasonable to vend here, as it’s a great starting block for a lot of global entrepreneurs, but there is a lot of turnover,” Zelaney said. “Because we’ve had to increase those rates, a lot of businesses have chosen to vend elsewhere because they can find other farmers markets locally for cheaper.”

Zelaney worries that, as costs climb year after year, soon there will be fewer and fewer vendors selling, and the ones that do will be forced to charge astronomical prices for their products to offset the rental fees.

“The (City of Vernon) say that the VFM has benefited from community rates for many years and its time that we got on par with full commercial rates. I don’t necessarily agree with that.

“We’re a nonprofit organization and I don’t think that we are being treated in a way that says the city values our place in the community.”

Zelaney is disappointed in the city’s decision, as the VFM has been a hub for small local businesses for years.

“We give thousands of pounds to the food bank every year. We are a hub for the Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon Program, which last year brought $80,000 of local food into the hands of low income families, seniors and single parents. I do believe that there does need to be some discussion on how rates are allocated by organizations.”

“There’s lots of smaller groups that don’t necessarily have as big of a voice, or might not get media attention, that are being impacted by these decisions from the city.”

More information on the VFM can be found at The next council meeting is Monday, July 17 where the issue on rental fees could be added to the agenda.

READ MORE: Increased fees, few services for Vernon facility rentals


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Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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