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Chamber voice added to farmer’s market committee, but move questioned

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
June 21st, 2021

The inclusion of the city’s chamber of commerce on a grassroots farmers’ market advisory committee had some on council questioning the move.

Two separate city councillors asked — during council’s regular meeting this week — why the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce had been tagged as part of the group that would oversee the vision for the farmers’ market.

The Nelson Farmers’ Market advisory committee (NFMAC) was established in 2020 to provide input to the City of Nelson in the management of the farmers’ market, with council adopting the terms of reference that same year.

But with the committee likely now a permanent thing some changes — such as the length of term moving from one year to two years — were made, including broadening the scope of the committee members, which included the chamber.

Coun. Nicole Charlwood questioned city staff about the move to include the chamber of commerce on the committee.

In the last go around with the advisory committee in 2020 Tom Thomson — the chamber’s executive director — was involved, said Sarah Winton, the city’s corporate officer, and the sentiment was to continue to have one Nelson business member on the committee.

Thomson was on the committee as a representative of the business community, she pointed out.

“He does add value because he does have the ear and is the voice of several hundred businesses in the community, and his input is really valuable,” Winton said.

There is room for any other member of the public to sit in the committee, she added.

Mayor John Dooley said once the COVID-19 restrictions have lifted and they are back to dealing with the day-to-day operations of the market the committee can get the input it needs from the business community through one voice

“It’s really important to have that voice from the business community,” he said.

Winton said a chamber presence would help for the next phase of the market.

“It’s really important to have their ear and their voice, especially when we will be considering what our location will be for the Wednesday market,” she said.

Since 2020 the Nelson and District Youth Centre has been running the Saturday and Wednesday markets at Cottonwood Falls Park. Last year, as the markets began and COVID was in full force, the Farmers’ Market Advisory Committee was formed.

“This committee was essential for staff to understand the needs of the market vendors,” noted a city staff report to council.

After one full-year of managing the market operations, it was determined that the committee needed to include more than just market vendors and that the larger Nelson community be represented.

Terms of reference

The changes made to the terms of reference include a shift in composition that consists of three market vendors: farm, prepared food, and artisans, one community at large member and the executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.

City of Nelson representation includes the mayor, the city manager, the Cultural Development officer, city council members and a Corporate Services staff member. The farmers’ market manager will coordinate and attend all meetings.

All committee members will be appointed for a two-year term as opposed to a one-year term.

Market in review

Although the market had a late start to the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 outbreak last year, it still managed to move ahead and host 37 markets overall by the time the season ended in late fall.

Before city involvement the market was facing a setback early in its 2020 inception, partly due to a shortfall in funding from groups like the City of Nelson in the early stages of the pandemic.

However, the municipality grabbed the reins of the organization of the market from the West Kootenay EcoSociety (WKE) — who had developed and operated the market for nearly 20 years.

The WKE had raised funds through vendor fees, donations, sponsorships and small grants to build the markets — both on Saturday and a downtown venue on Wednesday.

Market mania

When the city took over management of the market it chalked the decision up as another casualty of COVID-19, citing mounting “significant” revenue losses and not being in a position to provide additional funding to community groups, including a substantial new grant to the EcoSociety.

The city said discussions with the EcoSociety for a workable solution to the funding shortfall failed when WKE related they were not able to run the markets last year without substantial new grants from the city, regional directors, Columbia Basin Trust and additional donations from the community.

“The EcoSociety also indicated … that they would have only been able to run the markets until they ran out money, which also would not have been a good outcome for the vendors or the community,” said city communications coordinator Ginger Lester in a press release at the time.

Last year WKE executive director Montana Burgess said the EcoSociety was not part of the decision to turn the market management over to the youth centre.

Instead of granting the EcoSociety the money to run the market the city allocated $7,000 to their youth centre to run the markets. Burgess said the city had asked the RDCK area directors to send the financial support they committed to EcoSociety’s markets to the city.

Categories: General


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