The Nicola Valley Farmers’ Market (NVFM) has been nominated for three awards from the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM): Small Farmers’ Market of the Year, Farmers’ Market Manager of the Year for Market Manager Val Grimshire, and Farmer’s Larder for Farmer Vendor of the Year. 

NVFM President Garrett Grimshire spoke to the Herald to express his thanks for the support the community provided during the rollercoaster of a year that was 2020. 

“This year, with everything surrounding COVID, I think it was really just that sense of community from the get-go, that really made it,” said Garrett. 

The support went both ways, with organizers working hard to make the best of the situation and provide a sales outlet at a time when many other events were shut down. 

“As a support for small business and agriculture in the community that was actually allowed to operate, unlike say Garlic Festival or some of the other templates that got shut down by COVID controls, every step we took had that mindset of, how do we help the most people? Because we’re actually in a position to. As a small market, we may not be able to do an incredible amount, but we could at least give people a space to run their small business that they wouldn’t have otherwise.” 

If the NVFM wins Small Farmers’ Market of the Year, Garrett is hopeful that it will increase the market’s reputation, and therefore draw more vendors. Despite the challenges associated with running an event during a pandemic, Garrett is eager to grow the market and showcase all that the Nicola Valley has to offer. 

“We can say, despite the fact that we’re a small market, we’re a great small market and here’s the trophy to prove it,” explained Garrett.  

“If you’re looking for a smaller market that isn’t so congested, where you’re not competing with three other vendors who are trying to sell the same product as you, we’re definitely worth consideration.” 

As for Market Manager, Val, 2020 was a year of ‘trial by fire’, as she stepped into the role for the first time just as COVID was making its way around the world. 

Unlike previous years, restrictions set by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, meant that only food vendors would be allowed to sell their goods when market season kicked off, although when the weather began to warm and case numbers decreased somewhat in June, non-food vendors were permitted to return. 

“The way that our produce here works is that when our market started in May we didn’t have a lot of food specific vendors, so we started out as a really, really small market,” explained Val, who noted that they had to utilize new marketing strategies to keep people informed and draw customers. 

“Once the vendors were allowed back, the market was allowed to go ahead with its full array of vendors again, but then we had the restrictions of handwashing and hand sanitization stations, we had to operate with people flowing in one direction so there was a lot of set up to do… it was a lot of work before and after the market to set it up.”

Despite these difficulties, the NVFM successfully hosted a ‘Market goes Garlic’ event to help those farmers hardest hit by the shutdown of Garlic Festivals around the province, and an end of summer market designed to draw new vendors or those with excess produce as the harvest season was in full swing. 

“I’m most proud of the larger markets that we did,” said Val. 

“We ran a market around the same time that normally the Garlic Festival operates, where we focused on local garlic growers. And then we did one at the end of the season that was about bringing in the harvest.”

These markets were held on Quilchena Ave., where the Summer Nights Markets were held in previous years. 

“There was a lot of organization that went into that,” said Val.  

“We tried to bring more local people that don’t sell year-round at our Farmers’ Market, to bring those people together and create a larger market. Even though COVID was making things smaller in a lot of communities, we actually saw some growth, and it was really great to see the community come together to support us, and a lot of vendors come out for that as well.” 

Restrictions limiting vendors to strictly consumable goods are back in place, and while there is hope that by summer BC will be back to normal for small, community based events like the Farmers’ Market, the Grimshires aren’t counting their chickens before they hatch. 

“Now that we’re in the midst of the second wave it’s going to be even more challenging this year,” said Garrett. 

“But, after a challenging year like 2020 a lot of us are just kind of happy to see that the amount of effort that was put in is being recognized.”  

The Awards ceremony will be virtual this year, and take place at the end of the 2021 BC Farmers’ Markets Virtual Conference on Friday, Feb. 19.