Like most communities, Lytton has a handful of organizations and groups that contribute to the social well-being of their community.
The Two Rivers Farmers’ Market is a group of colourful local farmers (and a few creative artisans, bakers and cooks) whose primary goal is to work together to bring fresh produce, crafts and homemade goods to the community.
The group especially has one thing in common: how hard they work to prepare for the Friday bazaar.
It’s almost an obsession for many of the 30 vendors that participate in the market.
They till the soil in the hot Lytton sun. They dirty their hands to plant the seed. They water and weed, fight off pests and predators, harvest and gather, and finally, they package their goods and transport them quickly to the market before everything wilts.
Then, they set up their display and endeavor to keep produce fresh-looking for up to five hours as customers purchase what their hands have created.
In fact, two of the biggest challenges for the market this year were the extreme hot weather (with temperatures hovering around 38°C) and the smoke from forest fires. Both vegetables and people wilted in the heat and smoke.
Every Friday from May until the end of October, an average of 15 vendors set up their displays under their small canopies on Fourth Ave. in downtown Lytton.
A small chess table is usually set up for an ongoing grudge match between several of the rival vendors.
Gordon Murray, volunteer president of the Lytton Farmers Market, says the market is able to help families in need through the Farmers Market Coupon Nutrition Program.
Funded by the Ministry of Health and administered by the local market, 25 low-income families and local elders get coupons every week that they can use to purchase nutritious fresh food at the local market.
The market works with community partners Lytton First Nation Health and the Lytton Food Bank, who choose the participants in the coupon program.
The program has been a huge benefit to both vendors and shoppers.
According to Murray, “mMore younger shoppers and more First Nations shoppers have become engaged in healthy eating and shopping because of the coupon program.
“In one family, the kids were excited to come and shop at the market and try new things like the multi-coloured carrots and striped beets that they had never seen before,” he said.
Vendors benefit financially from the fast-growing coupon program because hundreds of extra dollars flow into the market each week.
The coupons have made it viable for some vendors to sell produce at the Lytton market rather than travel two or more hours to other markets.
Murray continues: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there is a farming renaissance in Lytton, including people revitalizing family farms that have been idle for a generation.”
Buskers are a unique feature of the Lytton Market. Sometimes the music is so charming that both vendors and visitors dance around the carrots and flowers and onions in time to the music.
Some wonderful musicians have performed at the markets including Rio Samaya, a four-piece Spanish fusion band based in Vancouver; Willard Wallace, a talented performer from Merritt; and Gonzalo, a Latin troubadour travelling through Lytton from Chile.
The ambience is often magnetic, especially when the aroma of fresh bannock or apple fritters is added to the atmosphere.
Two great midweek night markets in Lytton’s “vertical park” were added this year, where the focus was on some amazing performers.
The first night market featured Paulet Rice from Spences Bridge, who has performed at numerous festivals. The second night market featured First Nation performers Sandy Scofield, Ronnie Dean Harris (a.k.a. Ostwelve) and Sam Bob from Vancouver, who were in Lytton to perform in Kevin Loring’s incredible new play Battle of the Birds.
Another undertaking of the Farmers Market was the Lytton Block Party on the May long weekend.
The Block Party had more than 200 people on the street dancing to the Ghengis Ghandis, which includes eight musicians from Ashcroft, Kamloops, Lytton and Lillooet, as well as an energizing performance by Enter-Tribal, a First Nations hip-hop duo from Vancouver.
“The Block Party also included our largest night market, with everything from fresh-cooked bannock, wildcrafted indigenous preserves, custom brewed tea blends and iced espresso to First Nations artwork such as beading, moccasins and cedar bracelets,” said Murray.
“With the market now closed for another season, we would like to thank all the shoppers, vendors, performers and volunteers that made this year fun and delicious,” he added.
There is no question that the Lytton Farmer’s market is a community hub that builds social, cultural and nutritional connections.
Many thanks to Gordon Murray and the many other volunteers who create a remarkable venue that unites and benefits our entire community.