The trend of buying produce and other products from local vendors has made resurgence in the province only recently.
However, the Ponoka Farmer’s Market continues to move ahead strongly and just reached a huge milestone – it’s now 40 years old.
Though unlike some that reach middle age, the market isn’t struggling with attempting to reinvent or needing to find itself. Instead, the market is stronger than ever and seeing growth in both the number of tables being taken as well as the numbers of people walking through the doors.
“Things have been really good this year,” said current market manager Donna Merrill,” It’s been great to see all the new vendors along with those that are regulars.”
The market operates out of the Ponoka Curling Club each Wednesday from May to October and features over 85 tables filled with fare ranging from the usual – vegetables, fruits, homemade foods and handmade products such as quilts, tea cozies and gift items – to the more commercial which include paintings, photographs and toys.
Merrill explained that farmers’ markets in Alberta must have at least 80 per cent of their vendors be Albertans selling products either they, an immediate family member, staff member or member of a producer-owned cooperative made, baked or grown.
“We are allowed up to 20 per cent commercial vendors. I think the idea really helps us bring in different vendors which we have seen so far this year,” Merrill said.
There have been a couple of new items on this year’s schedule at the Ponoka market that have been successful in achieving the goal of bringing more people down that might not otherwise think of dropping in.
The first was playing host to the Battle River Watershed Alliance’s Saskatoon pie contest followed by the market’s first-ever Christmas in July event.
“It was the first year we have done that and it went well,” she said.
“You could really notice the larger number of people coming down to the market the next week. As for the pie contest, that really brought in some huge numbers.”
The 81-year-old Merrill herself is making a bit of history, having managed the market on her own since 2007 after co-managing with Nettie Winslow for the previous 18 years.
“I really enjoy all of the people and the vendors. If I didn’t do this, I’d probably just be sitting at home doing nothing, so this keeps me busy,” she stated, adding the market’s first manager was Mr. R. Maplethorpe.
The market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Wednesday at the Ponoka Curling Club. For more information or to book a table, contact Merrill at (403) 783-6776.