The first season of selling local wine, beer and spirits at farmers’ markets in British Columbia was good for consumers, vendors and the markets.
Starting in June, BC Farmers’ Markets offered sales of locally-made wine, beer and spirits, following the provincial government’s move to modernize liquor laws. These changes came as the result of Parliamentary Secretary John Yap’s Liquor Policy Review.
“The government showed support for the farm-to-table movement in BC by permitting these sales,” said Miles Prodan, President & CEO of the BC Wine Institute. “The result of this change was positive for everyone involved.”
Township 7 Vineyards & Winery, which was the first in the province to offer sales and sampling, said BC wine was logical addition to the market.
“Shopping for wine along with your local fruits, vegetables and groceries is a natural. Consumers at the community markets in White Rock, Langley and Penticton were very supportive of the convenience of purchasing Township 7 wine along with their groceries,” said Mike Raffan, General Manager, Township 7 Vineyards & Winery. “We also found this additional sales outlet provided us with a great opportunity to directly engage the neighbours in our community and encourage them to visit our two local south Langley and Naramata Bench wineries.”
Julian Scholefield, Operations Manager at Okanagan Crush Pad Winery, agreed that the markets provided an opportunity for more than just sales of wine.
“We found the Penticton Farmers’ Market to be a valuable opportunity for both sales and marketing this past summer. Being able to expose our brand to a large engaged audience and then direct traffic to our winery was definitely a win,” he said. “We had many guests come by the winery for tours and tastings after seeing us at the market. Our big surprise was that our premium wines were our best sellers from our market booth.”
The BC Association of Farmers’ Markets says the swift implementation of the new rules meant an immediate result at the markets. BC farmers’ markets reported an overall traffic increase this year and many attribute this to the addition of BC liquor sales.
“We are thrilled that 43 farmers’ markets across the province have local wine, spirit and craft beer producers sampling and selling at their markets, even though the policy changes were only implemented in late June, said Elizabeth Quinn, Executive Director of the BCAFM. “We expect that number to grow next year. Having local wineries at BC farmers’ markets supports agricultural tourism, creates new economic opportunities for local businesses and complements the sales of BC-grown fruit and produce.”
Expanding the scope of sales of BC products to local consumers, the next step will be the sale of 100 per cent BC grape and fruit wines, 100 per cent BC cider and 100 per cent BC craft beer on eligible grocery stores shelves around the province.
“Consumers are making more diligent buying choices when it comes to supporting local and the farmers’ market is just one avenue for this,” said Prodan, pointing to grocery stores as the most logical next step for the government to continue this support. “Like the farmers’ market, supporting the farm-to-table movement with sales of 100 per cent BC wine and other BC-made products in grocery store aisles would have broad-reaching economic outcomes around the province.”