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Vendors, customers worry about loss of Saskatoon Farmers’ Market community

Customers react to loss of Saskatoon Farmers’ Market
WATCH: On Monday, city council voted to continue looking for a new farmers’ market downtown.

Ann Popoff said she doesn’t want to think about what will happen to the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market and the vendors after December.

“They feel like friends, like family,” she said.

Popoff said she has been shopping at the River Landing farmers’ market since it opened 12 years ago and that she’s developed relationships with her favourite vendors. When she stops at the Benlock Farms booth she speaks to Shawnda Blacklock for 10 minutes.

They talk about how the market is going to change.

READ MORE: New proponent enters debate for Saskatoon farmers’ market site

The City of Saskatoon owns the site and did not renew the lease for the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market Co-operative Ltd. (SFMCL), meaning that current vendors like Blacklock will have to move.

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“There’s a lot of uncertainty about where we’re going to go or what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it,” Blacklock said.

On Sept. 30, Adithya Ramachandran and Erika Quiring, leaders of the SFMCL, told city council that the group should be allowed to stay and that only their co-operative can provide an authentic farmers’ market.

READ MORE: Saskatoon council votes for more activity at farmers’ market site

The council voted to continue looking for a group that can provide activity at the downtown location six days a week, two of which would be a farmers’ market. The vote effectively prevented the SFMCL from remaining.

On Wednesday another group, the Community Farmers’ Market of Saskatoon, said they wanted the site and are looking for partners to provide six days of activity. It currently runs an outdoor market on 8th Street East and on 51st Street.

The Community Farmers’ Market of Saskatoon confirmed to Global News that it is looking at the site and seeking partners but declined to comment further.

Several of the River Landing customers on Saturday said they would continue shopping at the site regardless of the vendors.

“I would still come to this location, absolutely,” said Robert Scott, who said he’s been shopping there for more than a decade.

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Josh Stranden said he’s been a customer for three years and that the new group should be given a chance.

“There’s a lot of vendors here who we’ve seen a lot… and if there were to be new vendors that came in, it’s always good to see what they bring to the market,” he said.

READ MORE: Saskatoon Farmers’ Market searches for new venue after leaky roof dampens lease renewal

Zoe Bordeleau-Cass, an employee at Three Foragers Bee Co., said she’s only been working at the market for about six months but that there is a strong community that could be lost with the change.

“My favourite thing about coming is knowing the vendors and being able to connect with them, too, and support each other and support local business,” she said.

The SFMCL is looking for a new location but the vendors at the market to whom Global News spoke said the move would be disruptive.

Blacklock’s farm, Benlock Farms, sells beef and requires large coolers to keep the meat cool. She said she’s worried that a new location may not be able to accommodate the equipment.

Hal Jedeske, a dairy farmer and SFMCL vendor, said the change was “concerning.”

READ MORE: Future location of Saskatoon Farmers’ Market up in the air

“This is the only place [many vendors] sell, so it is their business, basically,” he told Global News.
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Both Blacklock and Jadeske said they would remain with the SFMCL.

The SFMCL’s lease is up at the end of the year and the last scheduled market is Dec. 22. That gives Popoff less than a dozen weekends left to enjoy the current market.

“I hate the idea of not being here anymore. It feels very sad,” she said.

“Here I can shop among friends.”