The Farmers Market Association of Manitoba Co-op Inc. (FMAM) received an early Christmas present last week – a $450,000 federal grant for market site improvements.
The funding for upgrades such as canopies and walkways, signage, shelter belts and other fixtures, comes through the federal Community Adjustment Fund (CAF) and is part of the Conservative government’s two-year $1-billion Canada Economic Action Plan or stimulus funding program.
This investment in Manitoba farmers’ markets will make markets more attractive, which will help vendors and help create employment in rural areas, said MP James Bezan (C -Selkirk -Interlake) who announced the funding.
“The importance of farmers’ markets is really starting to grow,” Bezan said. “We need to make sure that they have the facilities and the infrastructure where they can showcase their products and provide a hospitable environment and a clean, friendly environment in which they can sell their products to those consumers who want to buy local.”
Manitoba is the first province to receive a cash grant for farmers’ market infrastructure. Thirty-one farmers’ markets across the province will be eligible to apply for this funding starting next month.
“We’re thrilled,” said Dianna Mae Hocaluk, FMAM’s executive director.
No markets could raise this kind of money on their own, she said. Markets only charge vendors nominal fees, and the small amounts of cash they do collect all goes to things like insurance. Improvements to facilities are badly needed, especially for weather protection, she said.
FMAM will begin accepting proposals from markets next month, Hocaluk added.
Marlin Peters, a market vendor and co-ordinator of the Virden Farmers’ Market, said they’ll be eager to see what they can now do to upgrade their market site. One of customers’ biggest complaints is exposure to poor weather. “Our market is situated right along the railway tracks with the northwest completely wide open,” Peters said. They have installed a pole shed shelter, but would also like to plant shelter belts for wind protection.