Downtown farmers’ market returns to Edmonton’s 104 Street on Saturday

Click to play video: 'Downtown Edmonton farmers’ market returns'
Downtown Edmonton farmers’ market returns
After half a decade away, the downtown Edmonton farmers' market is returning to 104 Street in June. Breanna Karstens-Smith has a preview. – Apr 30, 2024

More than four years after moving to an indoor location, the downtown Edmonton farmers’ market is returning to its old stomping grounds outdoors, along 104th Street.

“This particular location, as we saw in those days when it just grew and grew… It just is the perfect street for it,” said Puneeta McBryan, executive director of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association (EDBA). “The beautiful historic buildings that we still have on 104th Street, the nice big sidewalks, having lots of retail businesses and cafes and restaurants facing right onto the street.

“Plus, you’ve got this really high density of residents — thousands and thousands of people living in the towers all around the street — so it really is sort of this perfect mix of what you need to have a vibrant market on the weekend.”

The first market is Saturday, June 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will run every Saturday until Oct. 12.

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Click to play video: 'Downtown Business Association excited for return of outdoor 104 Street farmers market'
Downtown Business Association excited for return of outdoor 104 Street farmers market

Before moving to an indoor venue in 2019, the downtown farmers’ market had years of success at this outdoor 104th Street location.

It moved to the historic 113-year-old Army & Navy building on 103rd Avenue and 97th Street in 2019 so it could operate year-round. But the costs of maintaining a large building plus the pandemic, made the change difficult to manage. The number of shoppers dropped as did the number of vendors — from 250 to 60.

In January 2024, the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market Association declared bankruptcy.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market declares bankruptcy'
Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market declares bankruptcy

McBryan said the EDFMA has been around for 100 years. The timing and cost of moving indoors was just untenable.

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“So we, as the EDBA, have taken on sort of a quarterbacking and facilitating of bringing back the downtown farmer market to what we believe is its rightful home on 104th Street.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market searches for new home amid rising operating costs'
Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market searches for new home amid rising operating costs

McBryan said she’s confident the market will succeed back at its outdoor space on 104th Street.

“It has its downsides,” she admitted. “You’re vulnerable to the weather, you can’t do it year-round, you can’t do it multi-day because you have to think of reopening the road.

“But the major upside of doing a one-day outdoor market is that it is very cost effective, it’s very efficient to run. We’ve got some up-front start-up costs… but really in the long term, with a little bit of operating funding, the vendor fees really cover what it costs to put the market on and it’s not the massive undertaking that it is having a building that you’ve got to pay operating costs on and keep the lights on year-round.

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“I’m much more confident that we can do this in the long term and really that EDFMA could have done this in the long term if they had stayed on 104th Street as well. It really was that indoor move that becomes a really big risk,” she said.

Click to play video: 'City Market Downtown leaving 104 Street'
City Market Downtown leaving 104 Street

The market will take place on 104th Street between Jasper Avenue and 102nd Avenue. The footprint is smaller than it was during the peak years of 2016, when it spread out to include 102nd Avenue east and west, McBryan said.

“We’ve got to brace for LRT construction on 102nd Ave. So we’re really being mindful that we don’t want to spread out over 102nd Avenue, knowing that that could be cut off at any time. We’re really just focusing on 104th Street itself. It is that original site. It’s the same site that you would have remembered from those old days. But it is a smaller footprint. So we’ve got to be a little bit more selective of who the vendors are that are able to be on the street and make sure it’s a good diverse mix of what everyone is looking for.”

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She said the more than 45 vendors include familiar faces, such as Steve and Dan’s Fresh BC Fruit, Lacombe Fresh, Doughnut Party and Moonshine Doughnuts, and Riverbend Gardens, which has been selling produce at the downtown market since 1981.

“We’re really excited because we were part of the market on 104th when it was grand,” said Steve Souto, of Steve and Dan’s Fresh BC Fruit. “There’s so many people that live there that I know have been wanting to support it.

“We’re really excited this year because there’s going to be I think about 50 vendors. So, it’s going to be big and vibrant again,” Souto said.

Click to play video: 'Steve and Dan’s Fresh B.C. Fruit unveils new community agriculture program'
Steve and Dan’s Fresh B.C. Fruit unveils new community agriculture program

Foundry Events has been hired — through an open competitive RFP process — to operate the market.

“They’re doing a great job,” McBryan said. “The site plan is all locked down, all the vendors — a wait list for vendors actually — lined up. We’re really excited to bring back that experience.”

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“There really is something about farmers markets and I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it,” she mused. “It’s this thing that brings people together. It’s this time-specific shopping opportunity. If you want your fresh local fruits and vegetables, you kind of have to go to that place at that one time.

“You know you’re going to see a lot of community members, you’re going to see a lot of dogs that you can pet. There’s something about it as a community event that’s recurring that really draws people out.”

Financial support for the market will be provided by the City of Edmonton’s Downtown Vibrancy Fund with the EDBA contributing additional resources.

Click to play video: '40 years with the Old Strathcona Farmers Market'
40 years with the Old Strathcona Farmers Market

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