The Vernon Farmer’s Market has overcome many challenges, enjoyed many successes and grown into a thriving community under the watch of Ingrid Baron.
Now, the market will have to keep on growing without her.
Baron is stepping down in her ninth season as manager, though she’s been involved with the market in one way or another for the past 28 years — though she’ll still be there each week selling preserves along side her husband Dennis at their Blue House Creations booth.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to make,” she said. “The connection of fresh, local products is more important now than ever and I continue to be amazed by the support of the community.”
When Baron first got involved, the market was half its current size and stood in the Vernon recreation centre parking lot.
“My mom used to go to the market all the time, and she turned me on to fresh, local stuff,” Baron said.
Baron started off selling her own line of hand-sewn clothing and themed clocks made out of bark. Into her second year at the market, she was invited to come onto the board as a marketing director.
Much would change after those early days. Eight years into serving on the board in various capacities, the market’s location came into question. A referendum for the the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre was successful in 2000, and the centre on 3800 33 St. was to be built on top of the market’s site at the time.
Fortunately, a second referendum for the construction of Kal Tire Place was also approved around the same time, and the market found its new and current home alongside it.
Amid all this, the Vernon market was working on its own major development: the creation of a province-wide association. Twenty years ago, the Vernon Farmer’s Market began hosting meetings with representatives from markets in Kelowna, Salmon Arm and Kamloops. Those meetings would set the foundations for BC Association of Farmers’ Markets, which now serves 145 markets across the province.
“I’m still so proud of it,” Baron said of the work she and her team did to form the government-backed association, which provides markets with a host of resources, from manager training to to vendor promotion, all while providing a unified industry voice for B.C. farmers.
“It’s been a godsend to have them.”
The market garnered major accolades during Baron’s time as manager, including the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Market’s award for Best Market in B.C. in 2013. The following year, Baron earned the title of Best Market Manager in the province, and the market added a Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence award for best marketer in an organization with fewer than 10 employees.
But more than the awards, for Baron the market is about friendships, entrepreneurial spirit, and a diverse group of people coming together to make things work.
“It’s family, and it’s community.”