By Sharon Yeo
With its fortieth anniversary approaching, the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market is planning a slate of renovations that will make multi-day operations possible, something the market says both customers and vendors are asking for.
Keith Persaud, market manager, told Taproot the building's history as a former City of Edmonton bus barn has made it difficult for the facility to meet current Alberta Health Services standards and that infrastructure upgrades are a prerequisite if the market were to ever consider becoming a multi-day operation.
"You need to have sinks for sampling and tastings and concession-type food," said Persaud. "Our vendors have plastic bottles with a bucket."
Changes to the local food ecosystem during the pandemic have also been a factor in moving renovations forward, given the proliferation of farmers' markets over the past several years, and the rise in home delivery options. "The industry is changing, becoming more competitive," said Persaud. "People don't want to be in a room shoulder to shoulder with 15,000 people, they want more options to come on other days."
Persaud notes that the shift to a younger cohort of vendors with a different approach has helped make the multi-day conversation possible.
"The new generation is not looking at what their mom and dad did. It's not coming to the market and standing here. It's 'I make this, I hire people, and trucks go out,'" said Persaud. "There's good and bad with that. You're not meeting the owners like you used to. The upside is that the vendors are getting more opportunities to sell products and customers are getting more days to shop markets. It's not as personal as it used to be, but that's the way it's going."
When the proposed renovations — which will include redesigned vendor stalls — are complete, the market intends to open on Fridays from 11am-5pm and on Saturdays from 8am-3pm.
The market also plans to add a general store and a new kitchen and events space, both of which would operate seven days a week. The general store would sell vendor products during off-market hours, and would enable the market to expand its curbside pick-up service to seven days a week. Looking into the future, Persaud teased that a delivery option might even be on the table.