The Royal City Farmers Market AGM was held January 28. For those who were unable to attend, we are posting the text of the speeches each board member gave to summarize our progress in the 2009 market year.
I had experienced the market for the inaugural summer season and immediately witnessed how it brought the community together.
While the vendors themselves were the experts at being a local, environmentally responsible source of food and the work of the market manager and society was doing great job promoting that link between consumer and producer, what I saw was my neighbors.
It was the way the market drew the citizens of our city to interact in one spacious, safe place. I saw how community groups were able to reach out and pursue the good works they promoted within the city.
Neighbours could come out of their TV rooms and talk, neighbourhoods could come together from across town and kids could play together outside of school with their families sharing that time with them. Local politicians could go right up to their constituents and find out what they thought but more importantly, the voters could talk with their elected reps to find out what they were doing!
So I found my place as a volunteer. I just showed up and started to help, to get a feel for the group and to find out what needed to get done. I soon learned that there is a lot of work behind the scenes (and kudos to the others on the board and the volunteers for getting this important event off the ground for the first season in 2008).
I quickly learned that a key element in attracting the neighbourhoods and civic liveliness to the events was the high quality of our vendors: their products, their expertise…..their spirit. I also learned that the reason that a relatively small market like the RCFM was able to attract such quality vendors was both the spirit that the city brought every week and the level of support that market staff offered the vendors.
Time after time, I hear from our vendors that this is their favorite market or that the RCFM staff was one of the reasons that they had made a recommendation to another vendor or booked more weeks in a month than they otherwise would have. So besides the heavy lifting that any volunteer for RCFM needed to do, I made a point to foster this level of support and respect between the vendors and the RCFM.
On the board at the time, as Vendor Rep, was Ilona from Vienna Treasures. She is many things, including a cherished member of New Westminster’s small business community, an expert craftsman confectioneer and baker, an entrepreneur from her shop, her booth at RCFM and other markets, but she was also a valued member and a crucial voice on our board, speaking from a vendor’s perspective. When she stepped down from the board during the summer we missed her perspective and her work but thankfully, we didn’t have to miss her or her baking because the Vienna Treasures booth remained a key feature for many market weeks.
I was invited to join the board to inexpertly fill her position and, as I am not a vendor at any market, I took the post of vendor liaison. Strictly speaking, I was to be a voice from the vendor’s perspective, engage the vendors on behalf of the board to ensure they were happy with the direction and features of the market, and be an ear for any complaints or suggestions that might come up that could not be handled by the market manager. Some positions on the board are thankless tasks; this is not one of them.
I am happy to report…happy vendors! RCFM remains a preferred venue for many qualified, in demand and sought after vendors. During the summer and even now during the winter monthly markets, our problem has been where to put all of the fantastic vendors who have chosen to make a home with the RCFM. Our expansion into the winter is a testament to how our vendors feel about doing business in New Westminster. A good portion of the support and direction for the winter market came from our vendors themselves.
I am triply lucky as a member of the RCFM. I have the pleasure to work with an outstanding group of citizens who have come together and, in 2009 invite me, to help run this market; I get to interact with my neighbours and colleagues from this wonderful city and, I am proud to say, I can work with our RCFM vendors and the farmer’s market vendor community that brings such authenticity and craft to our town each week or each month. Here’s to 2010!