Among the many chances to the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Act this year, few have been more visible than the addition of wine, beer, cider and spirits vendors at farmers markets.
The Creston Valley Farmers’ Market has become one of more than 40 markets around the province to permit liquor vendors to participate.
“I love the addition of a local winery using local grapes and a craft distillery using local grain, as it provides market goers with a new way to explore the local characteristics of the Creston Valley, right at our own farmers’ market,” said manager Jen Comer.
Comer invited comments on the market’s Facebook page last week, asking “What do you think of the addition of wine and spirits to our market?” The response included 27 likes and all eight comments were positive.
“I haven’t had a single negative comment at the market,” she added.
Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery became the first wine producer to offer its products at the Creston market earlier this summer. The Erickson winery was established in 2006 and owner Bob Johnson welcomed the new outlet for winery products.
“The customers at the farmers’ market were so happy that the government was following through with changes to the liquor laws, they were doing the happy dance in front of our booth,” he said. “It was a really positive sign that change was happening when one of the local wineries was actually at the farmers Market.”
Lora and Kevin Goodwin have been making the trip from their home in the Slocan Valley to Creston regularly, introducing products from Kootenay Country Craft Distillery to a community they have a close connection with.
“Working at the Creston farmers’ market has been great,” Lora said. “It gives us a way to connect face to face with potential customers and tourists from outside the area that would otherwise not know about our local farm to bottle product.
“Sales at the market have been excellent and have helped us through the very difficult startup of a small distillery. The public has been very happy to see us, and many people are surprised that there is a distillery making spirits from Creston wheat.”
Marquis wheat, an heirloom variety developed in the Fraser Valley in the 1890s, is used to make Valhalla Vodka. It is grown by TreasureLife Farms in Canyon.
Jon Bell, president of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets, said that there are many benefits to regulatory changes allowing for liquor sampling and sales at B.C. markets.
“Linking consumers and farmers with knowledge and understanding of food production is at the heart of all farmers’ markets,” he said. “The addition of liquor sales at B.C. farmers’ markets is a great extension of the ‘buy local’ and ‘make it, bake it, grow it’ philosophies. These recent changes have been seen as positive by vendors and customers.”
While changes in provincial regulations allowed for wine, beer and liquor sales in farmers markets, each market can choose whether it wants to permit such vendors. And the sales must meet local government bylaws and regulations, too. All vendors must have Serving it Right certification to ensure responsible service and prevent sales to minors.
With the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market now in its second year of operation on Canyon Street beside the chamber of commerce, Comer said the market’s growth and popularity with consumers has been outstanding.
“This summer we have averaged 44 vendors and have been drawing huge numbers of people to each market,” she said. “It is very exciting to see the enthusiasm of our vendors and their customers!”