The Vernon Farmers Market should not see Saturday’s referendum result as a slap in the face.
By voting yes, those who actually cast ballots were only saying they back the twinning of Kal Tire Place because pumping cash into aging Civic Arena no longer makes sense. They weren’t implying that they don’t appreciate locally grown produce or don’t value the economic impact of agriculture. Many families linked to hockey, lacrosse, ringette and other sports may be some of the market’s most avid customers.
But claims abound that the market has been forsaken for the benefit of others.
The VFM Facebook page declared the referendum, “A very sad day for the Vernon Farmers Market,” while manager Ingrid Baron stated, “This community reminds me of a tree with only one branch. All the other branches keep getting cut off.”
Of course life won’t be the same for the market as its existing location will become a construction zone, but that shouldn’t spell the end of the VFM.
In fact, the perceived worst case scenario can be avoided.
But for that to happen, it’s going to take the City of Vernon, as the owner of the property, to be flexible and reach out to VFM and for market officials to move beyond the referendum result and think outside of the box.
Currently, VFM organizers insist they will stay at Kal Tire Place during construction, albeit the footprint will shrink significantly. Fewer vendors could negatively impact the customer base as the variety of products shrinks.
Instead, why not move to a temporary location, such as the performing arts centre or the curling club, where there is lots of elbow room? Or there is the Village Green Centre parking lot where the old Friday night market used to be.
Yes, VFM has invested in marketing specific to Kal Tire Place, but the city could help facilitate the move through signage and advertising. And there’s also the reality that word of mouth about a new venue would spread quickly among residents.
The other plus to abandoning Kal Tire Place for a couple of years is eliminating the potential hazards facing the public in an active construction zone. Are the city or VFM prepared for liability exposure?
Now if setting up shop on the other side of town isn’t ideal, one other possibility comes to mind.
Why can’t the market relocate to the parking lot and the covered concession area at Kin Race Track? It’s a large area and right next door to Kal Tire Place so traffic patterns among customers would remain unchanged.
Some will make the argument that the race track parking lot isn’t paved but neither is the lot for the Armstrong Farmers Market, which draws steady crowds. But if asphalt is truly an issue, perhaps the City of Vernon could put down a layer of pavement to accommodate the vendors.
And the best part is, a farmers market twice a week shouldn’t interfere with the never-ending legal dispute between the city and the Okanagan Equestrian Society over the race track.
Ultimately, there doesn’t need to be an us or them scenario between the city and the VFM or farmers and sports groups.
The entire community benefits from having an active population and food grown close to home, not to mention a diverse economy ranging from hockey tournaments to agri-tourism.
The good news is that construction of a new arena won’t likely begin until the spring of 2017. That means there is plenty of time for the City of Vernon and the Vernon Farmers Market to find a suitable resolution that meets everyone’s needs.
Shelve the recent conflict and look towards the future.