Bay Tree Market on 49 launches season opener

On Tuesday, June 2, vendors will descend on the Bay Tree skating rink, just a tad east from the Bay Tree Store, for the season opener of the first-ever Bay Tree Market on 49, which Heather Porrill, who owns Buttery Bites Caramels, has been spearheading with the sponsorship of the Bonanza Agricultural Society. An Alberta-approved farmer’s market, Bay Tree Market on 49 takes place from 11am to 1pm every Tuesday from June 2 to September 1.

Over the years, Heather Porrill has heard people talked about getting a farmer’s market going in Bay Tree. There was a need for one, so people said. But, for some reason, the notion of having a farmer’s market in Bay Tree never really got off the ground – at least not until now.

Read on as Porrill shares how the Bay Tree Market on 49 evolved from an idea to an actual event.

Tell us about the Bay Tree Market on 49.
Bay Tree Market on 49 is an approved farmer’s market, and we are sponsored by the Bonanza Agricultural Society. The market takes place every Tuesday from June 2 to September 1 at the Bay Tree Store skating rink. The market is open from 11am to 1pm.

Please let me elaborate why we pick Tuesday as our market day. When we were filling out the lengthy application to be an approved market we needed to know the schedules of all the other markets in our neighboring communities. There are many other markets all around us, and we don’t want to compete with any of them. In fact, we want to make it possible for vendors from the other markets to come to our market. That way we will have a good variety of products. Tuesday is a good “going-to-town” day, so you can catch the market on your way to or from town.

We also think that the 11am-1pm time slot will give our vendors time to prepare in the morning as well as allow them the opportunity to go and attend two markets in one day if they have to.

Tell us about the genesis of the market.
Over the years of living in Bay Tree, I have heard people talked about how there is a need for a farmer’s market in our community. But it never happened, and I’m not sure exactly why. One day, while driving past the Bay Tree Store, it hit me that this was the perfect location for a market: there would be great highway exposure, and the venue itself provides sufficient room for vendors to showcase their products. I got excited. You would laugh if you understood that I actually don’t like outdoor markets, but I saw a potential and got excited about the location. So, I started putting in the work. I knew there would be paperwork and commitment involved in getting an approved market up and running, so hats off to those who have done it. I decided to take the whole process one step at a time. If I was successful with a step, I take another step. And then another. The goal is to have a market going in June 2020, or I fold the process up into a box for the trash bin. I am pleasantly surprised with our actual progress.

Who else was involved in the whole process of getting the market up and running?
While it may look like I am plugging away alone, there are a few helpers behind the scenes that I can defer a task or two off. Their help and encouragement have been extremely valuable. As I also said, we are sponsored by the Bonanza Agricultural Society.

I must also thank Birchcliff Energy, which has committed to provide porta-potties, handwashing units and 4-by-8 vinyl signages at the venue.

What type of vendors will be there?
Most of our vendors, so far, offer handmade or home-grown products – which is perfect because that is what a farmer’s market is really all about. There will be honey, garlic, Mead, eggs, assorted baking, herbs and lettuce, other produce and, of course, more produce when the local stuff is ready. There will be some canning, candy, snack foods, keto foods and more.

Have you had requests for certain products to be available at the market?
I have not had any other request except farm fresh eggs, and we will have them. If anyone has a special request, let’s hear it. Maybe one of our vendors can help. I would say most of our products are local even though the precise definition of what is considered “local” is tricky. You may even recognize the face of the farmer behind the table, because the farmer is your neighbour.

What is involved in being a seller at the farmer’s market?
If you make, bake or grow a product that you think you would like to sell at the market, give me a call. There are regulations that vendors need to follow, depending on what products they intend to showcase at the market, but nothing too daunting. I can help point you in the right direction for what you need to get started.

Will you be accepting more vendors after the market has started?
Yes. As people become aware that there is a market in Bay Tree we should see the number of vendors increase as the local produce becomes available. We are currently not looking for any 100% commercial non-food vendors. Alberta-approved markets operate with the flexibility to have 80% handmade/grown and 20% commercially produced products. We want to be as close to 100% handmade/grown as possible.

Will you and your caramels be there? Will you be selling farm produce too?
I am not sure I could show up without some of my Buttery Bites Caramels. So, yes, I will have some there. I have few other items available too. So, please stop in and visit. As far as produce goes, I am thinking that will be best left to the other experts in farming and gardening. I may have some, but that is not my strongest area of expertise.

Why should people buy local?
I wish I could fully explain the benefits of buying local. I saw a formula years ago that explained how spending a dollar relates to the prosperity of our community by way of providing, with dignity, an income for the people that do the work to get that local product into your hand. If you pick up a bundle of carrots or a bag of lettuce at a market, or any other handmade product, note that there was so much planning, love and attention that went into having that product there for you. Endless hours of work and often back-breaking labour were poured behind the scenes. The two-hour window of the market is a chance to take all those hours of work and convert that product into cash and repeat the production cycle all over again. Maybe today is the day the phone bill or the mortgage gets paid for that local farmer. The advantages work both ways. As a consumer, you get the freshest product available direct from the farmer. We all benefit when we spend our money in our community.

What are the best things to buy at a farmer’s market?
Everything! Please include us on your shopping list, and come see what we have available. I have heard that cinnamon buns are going to be the thing at our market. Maybe you need some to have your coffee with when you get home.

What happens to perishable items not sold at the end of the day?
Leftovers? But, I don’t think we are going to see leftovers because a farmer’s market consists of a group of individuals that come together to create a selling/shopping venue for the day. Each one would have a plan to deal with any items not sold. Any produce items that I personally would have left over would likely end up on the dinner table for the family. Remember, it was my hard work and effort that went into growing that item. I am not going to waste it. Other vendors may have other ideas about how to best use unsold items.

What is your favourite thing about a farmer’s market?
For me, the best thing about a market is the opportunity to talk to the vendor that created/grew/produced that product that you love. This is one of the most important aspects of a market, in my opinion. The social interaction between you, the consumer, and the “farmer” is magical for all involved. People want to know where their food was grown, how it was grown, why it was grown, how to use it, how to preserve it for winter use. You can get all of that and more when you have direct interaction with the person that grew it.