Back to top

EcoSociety scales back MarketFest and looks to partner with city as it struggles with financial wherewithal

The West Kootenay EcoSociety is asking the city to forgive the $5,500 per year it now pays for the markets. — The Nelson Daily photo

One of the city's more successful environmental groups is turning to the city for help as it continues to grapple with keeping popular events like MarketFest alive, but still finds itself scaling down operations.

The West Kootenay EcoSociety has asked the city for some financial assistance as it tries to rein in its costs and keep its various programs viable.

In all, the EcoSociety asked for the city to forgive the $5,500 per year it now pays for the markets — the downtown and Cottonwood markets.

The break would be going to help keep the markets going, said Alon Gercher, EcoSociety spokesperson.

"We are a grants-based, non-profit and each year all our programs are in question for funding," said Gercher. "We need your support to not just eliminate our fees but to provide financial support for long-term security of markets and all EcoSociety programs that support city objectives so that together we can make Nelson the healthy and sustainable city we all want it to be."

As stated by the BC Farmers’ Market association, "Markets rarely make money," he noted.

"Nelson’s markets do not make money, and are a net cost for us but are valued as a community service. As such, their long-term security is always in question," said Gercher.

He said the EcoSociety was downsizing markets this year due to financial losses, despite increased demand from both users and suppliers. As a result, Marketfest will only be twice (not three times) this year, and will only be able to have one stage, not two. 

"There are no contingencies in place for the markets — everything runs on a shoestring — so if anything breaks or (the manager) becomes unavailable due to sickness, no one else is trained to run the markets," said Gercher.

Throughout B.C. municipalities support their markets for their inherent value and to promote growth and security. Of the 77 B.C. markets that are on municipal land, 32 of those receive municipal support and do not pay any fees to their municipalities. 

In making his case for the EcoSociety, Gercher said the depth and reach of the grass roots organization has grown over the years, to the point of now providing some of the city's more popular festivals, spearheading its environmental activism and helping shape its social conscience.

With 24 years of community impact and credibility — and a budget of $450,000 — the EcoSociety is no longer a small player on the city scene. In fact, it was chosen by the city for the first annual “Leadership Sustainability Award."

Currently, the EcoSociety employs five people and several seasonal employees, and has over 100 volunteers with 6,900 supporters and members.

With a focus on the environment and climate change, the EcoSociety runs several programs, including the 100 per cent Renewable Kootenays, Kootenay Rideshare and the Interfaith Climate Collaborative.

It also runs the Kokanee Creek Nature Centre, the Jumbo Wild initiative as well as numerous environmental workshops and seminars, movies and speakers.

In the realm of sustainable food the EcoSociety has made its biggest mark, operating the popular Cottonwood Market, the Downtown Market and the very successful MarketFest, along with a winter market program and the Nelson Garden Festival.

In return, the EcoSociety pumps an estimated $1.5 million back into the community through spinoffs from its numerous markets and festivals.

The request for assistance was referred back to city staff for debate at a future city council regular business meeting.