“I didn’t think we had the slightest chance to win,” quipped Gordon Murray, volunteer and president of the Lytton Two Rivers Farmers’ Market. “But we decided to submit the application anyway because we are proud of our community’s achievement of growing a vibrant market over the last few years.”
When the Lytton market was selected by the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets as BC’s Small Farmers Market of the Year, everyone was surprised. But the awards jury obviously saw that something special was happening at the Two Rivers market.
“The main focus of our application was that we are engaging and partnering with the Nlaka’pamux community to make the market more dynamic and relevant to local First Nations, to younger people, and to the broader community,” says Murray.
The Two Rivers Farmers’ Market is a colourful group of local farmers, artisans, bakers, and cooks who are working together to bring fresh produce, crafts, and homemade goods to the entire community. Murray notes that the average weekly number of vendors at the market has doubled over the last four years.
He thinks that one of the reasons the Lytton market won the award was because of its support and association with initiatives such as Lytton’s Block Party, a May long weekend event with live music geared primarily towards First Nations youth. The Block Party includes the largest night market of the year, with everything from fresh-cooked bannock and wild-crafted indigenous preserves to custom-brewed tea blends. First Nations artwork such as beading and cedar bracelets are also on display.
Perhaps another reason Lytton received the honour is because of how the market implemented the Farmers’ Market Coupon Nutrition Program. The program is funded by the Ministry of Health and administered by the market, which works with its community partners Lytton First Nation Health and the Lytton Food Bank. Every week, 25 low-income families and elders got coupons that they could use to purchase nutritious fresh food at the market.
The Lytton market distinguished itself by developing funding for additional food coupons through a partnership with Lytton First Nation Social Development. Another local innovation was a series of recipe cards with delicious, simple recipes featuring fresh market ingredients.
These programs bring significant income to local farmers, helping make local food production more sustainable. Farmers that used to have to travel to markets in Abbotsford or beyond are now able to sell all their produce in Lytton.
According to Murray there is a small farming renaissance in Lytton, including people revitalizing family farms that have been idle for a generation. No doubt all these initiatives influenced the decision to select Lytton from the 50 small farmers’ markets in B.C. Everyone in Lytton is proud of the market’s special recognition.
The first market of the 2016 season is at the Block Party on the evening of Friday, May 20, from 6:00 to 11:00pm. There is also a special market on the holiday Monday on May 23. Starting on Friday June 3 there is a market every Friday from 10:00am to 4:00pm until the end of October.