Vancouver Farmers Markets (VFM), the non-profit organization that supports over 280 small BC farms and producers, will be putting ten new vendor hopefuls through their paces as part of its January Boot Camp initiative.
For the entire month of January, these aspiring businesses will learn what it takes to vend outdoors during the toughest time of the year at VFM’s two weekly winter markets, located at Nat Bailey Stadium and Hastings Park. Rain, snow, and lower shopper attendance in winter are just some of the challenges these rookie vendors might face – they also have to pass through the stringent quality standards set by VFM’s market managers.
“Selling at farmers markets is not the easiest path for a business to take, but there’s a lot of demand for space at our markets,” says Laura Smit, VFM’s Operations Manager. “This boot camp initiative is an opportunity for us to see what these new vendors can bring – great looking product, a positive attitude, and good sales skills are just some of the qualities we’ll be looking for.”
Shoppers will also have their say – VFM will be encouraging market attendees to vote for their favourite new vendor each week during the boot camp. The stakes are high. Businesses with the most votes and best all-round performance at the end of the month will be eligible to apply for summer market dates with VFM, and will also secure a coveted monthly spot at their popular Trout Lake Farmers Market. With annual vendor sales of $2,295,000, and daily attendance topping 5,400 shoppers, markets like Trout Lake present a rare opportunity for up-and-coming producers to direct market to the public.
“We see ourselves as an incubator for the food business in BC,” says Tara McDonald, VFM’s Executive Director. “Many of our vendors find wider success in retail and restaurant distribution after establishing their customer base with us. For farms and artisan producers with limited reach and distribution, our markets provide a vital chance for exposure, innovation, and test marketing.”
Among the ten boot camp participants include some unique offerings like Bite Snacks, who produce snack foods made with cricket protein, and Koji Salt, a low sodium condiment that’s touted as the secret umami ingredient in Japanese dishes. As Erica Bernardi, co-owner of Earnest Ice Cream, knows well, the farmers’ markets can be an ideal place to introduce new and innovative products. “Vancouver Farmers Markets was the perfect venue to launch our small batch ice cream business in 2012. It helped us connect with customers and develop relationships while providing a launchpad to expand into a brick and mortar location.”
The VFM Vendor Boot Camp begins January 6th at Nat Bailey Winter Market and the winning vendors will be announced January 31, 2018.
Founded in 1995 to bring a farmers market to Vancouver’s eastside residents, Vancouver Farmers Markets has grown to become one of Canada’s leading farmers market organizations, with eight weekly markets, 450,000 shoppers per year, and annual sales of $8.5 million. Our markets support over 280 small BC farmer and artisan food makers and help keep over 6,000 acres of local farmland in sustainable food production.