Downtown farmers’ market to 104th Street: I can’t quit you!

City Market in The Quarters
The Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market on May 18, 2019, opening day for its new location at 97th Street and 103rd Street. (Photo by Mack Male)

It looks like the downtown farmers’ market may not be moving off of 104th Street entirely.

We reported in March that the Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market would be moving to the old GWG building on 97th Street, where it would have a permanent, year-round presence and be open on Saturdays and Sundays. The market did in fact open there last weekend, setting up outside of the building, as the inside was not ready yet.

But now the market has decided to return to 104th Street on Saturdays, starting on June 15, except on days when construction makes that impossible, indicates an email from the City of Edmonton’s Civic Events and Festivals department, obtained by Taproot.

“After discussion with the Edmonton Downtown Farmer’s Market (EDFM), they have decided to return to 104 St on Saturdays starting on June 15th,” the email says. “The only exception to operation this summer will be if construction impacts arise, in which case the EDFM will be notified on the Monday before the market. On those Saturdays, EDFM vendors will return to their new location. We hope the businesses on 104 St, area residents, and Edmontonians will continue to enjoy vibrant Saturday’s on 104 Street!”

In a follow-up email, City spokesperson Amber Medynski told Taproot that while the prior agreement between the City of Edmonton and the EDFM for 104th Street was cancelled in December “due to anticipated construction restrictions in the area,” those have since decreased and EDFM was given the opportunity to return.

“The plan is for the Downtown Farmers Market to also take place at their new, permanent location at the GWG building on Sundays, but now they will also operate on 104 Street, between Jasper Avenue and 102 Avenue, as well as on 102 Avenue between 103 St and 104 St on Saturdays. The only difference is that the amount of space available in the area each week week may change based on the needs of construction,” said Medynski.

EDFM spokesperson Dan Young confirmed the decision to return to 104th Street was due to the availability of the space. “It’s easy to pick up and move tents to a certain extent,” Young says. “So we thought, ‘Well, we’ll come back and we’ll do what we can to program that street and get it going.

“Part of the other reason, too, is that our building on 103rd Avenue is not ready for occupancy,” he continues. “We thought it would be ready sooner, but it’s not. So we thought we might as well try to split the markets.”

Young says the EDFM will operate the market in both locations for 2019, and will review it with the City again next year.

Kirsta Franke of Wild Heart Collective, which organizes the 124th Street Grand Market, had been in talks to start a new, smaller market on 104th Street between Jasper and 102nd avenues.

“Grand Markets Edmonton has been working on a centrally located Saturday Market option that would extend into the holiday season for some time now,” she told Taproot. “With the news of Downtown Market relocating, our group was approached by local vendors as well as concerned downtown business stakeholders to provide an alternate level of programming for 104 Street.”

She said the well-being and success of local vendors and businesses is her organization’s first priority. “With this surprising news, we will continue to work with stakeholders to provide complementary programming downtown.”

Young confirmed that they were aware through some of their vendors that there was another group interested in running a market on 104th Street. When asked if this played a role in the EDFM’s decision to return to 104th, Young was noncommittal. “I think there’s always some advantages of having a couple of markets [downtown],” he said. “We like to view ourselves as the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market.”

“I think competition is good,” he said, in response to whether he thinks there shouldn’t be another market downtown. “We think that that will settle out over time.”

The market’s first day at the Quarters location seemed to be a success, with lots of people turning up at the new location on Saturday, the first day of the market’s outdoor season.

“All the comments we’ve got from the vendors on Saturday is that they did very well,” said Young. “They didn’t do quite as good as they did on opening day on 104. But for a brand new market and a brand new area they were very happy.”

Chris Buyze, president of the Downtown Edmonton Community League, called for collaboration. “We hope area residents, businesses, farmer’s market, City of Edmonton, and other stakeholders will work together to coordinate programming on 104 Street this season,” he said. “We believe we can all work together to balance the needs of 104 Street and programming, with future construction challenges.”

With files from Mel Priestley and Mack Male

Taproot tends to stay away from breaking news, but we know from the reaction to our first story on the market that you’re interested, so we wanted to share what we know. Mel Priestley, who wrote our initial story, is working on a follow-up piece about the economics of multi-day markets in Edmonton. Stay tuned for that.

Stay on top of local food news by subscribing to our weekly Food Roundup, written by Sharon Yeo of Only Here for the Food.

You can help us pay attention to such matters by becoming a Taproot Member. Just $10 a month or $100 a year helps us compensate our writers and cover our community.

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