The Fireweed Community Market launched the 2018 season on Thursday May 17 at Shipyards Park. The long-running community farmers market has grown over the years into a destination event each week, as a multitude of local farmers, vendors and crafters gather to share their products. According to the Fireweed Community Market Society co-chair, Carlie Ferland, it is a real community event that is designed to be as accessible as possible for new people wanting to join.
“We really try to maintain a low-risk event to try new products,” Ferland said. “So there’s lots of neat things. For vendors, it’s low costs and easy to do.”
Executive director Claudia Riveros explained the three-step process for securing a spot at the market.
“You familiarize yourself with the rules and guidelines, which are there to foster community spirit,” she said. “You then become a member of the society, which is responsible for the Fireweed Market and the 12 Days of Christmas Market. And then you register your booth, which there are various options for vendors.”
Director Katie Young noted that the “try it out” option was how she got involved with her kettle corn business. Young explained that she and her business partner started part way through the 2010 summer. They had gone to Dawson City Music Festival to sell kettle corn and, after seeing success and demand, made a decision in July and August to try it out by attending what they could. Her partner flew for work, so they couldn’t make it all the time.
“We were hooked in by being able to drop in and see if it worked,” Young said. “She was busy with work, so she sold to me and I was able to get ready for the next summer.”
That model has succeeded and has encouraged a diverse range of products to be shared each summer. As of early May, there were already 35 to 40 vendors registered for the market, and Riveros noted that many of the regular vendors had still not signed up.
“For booth space, about 25 per cent are new,” she said. “We have about 150 members who are all vendors, so I expect a mad dash to sign up.”
While originally conceived as a farmers market by founders Tom and Simone Rudge, the event has grown to host a very creative mix of products. Some of the more unique that have appeared over the years include smoothies that are made by riding a bike, clocks made out of popsicle sticks, refurbished axe handles by St. Elias Axes, and locally foraged spice mixes to get that Yukon flavouring in your next meal. Riveros noted that people are often pitching an idea they’ve seen elsewhere, that hasn’t been done in the Yukon yet. They have an interest to make something they’ve seen at a farmers market down south and bring it here, she explained.
In addition to the crafters, the event stays true to its farmer market roots and locally grown and raised products. It’s not uncommon to find these making their way into some of the food vendors offerings. In fact, the market society will be encouraging this cooperation, according to Ferland.
“There will be a sandwich board by each food vendor, listing what local food is being used,” she explained.
That local sourcing goes a long way towards the spirit of the market. They believe in a reduced impact with local sourcing and community support. Riveros noted that the essence of their mandate is to be local and to have value-added products that are grown, raised, harvested or crafted.
That spirit made partnering with Zero Waste Yukon a natural step and Riveros explained that they made a presentation at the recent conference.
“We shared our initiative to become zero waste in the future,” she said. “We are working with Zero Waste Yukon and tracking how well we sort. We’re auditing.
“We are also sorting better in our office. It’s a priority, and we’re working with vendors to identify zero waste compostable alternatives and providing incentives to use.”
The market is quickly growing. When they first moved to Shipyards Park, the market was located in the parking lot. It has since moved to the oval and has plenty of space to expand out the back, into the park. However, that growth hasn’t come without challenges that they are working to resolve. New vendors and expansion are putting a strain on the access to power for those looking to use it on-site.
“We do have problems with access to electricity,” Riveros said. “We’ve been asking vendors for feedback and identified it as a challenge to address. They want reliable access to electricity.”
The society just recently held their Annual General Meeting and the same eight board members and executive director are returning for the second year in a row. They meet monthly to plan and organize the markets and are always looking for more volunteers. The society generates just over half of their operating revenue through memberships and market booth rentals, but the long term support from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership program provides 30 per cent of their operating costs. According to Riveros, they continue to explore ways to cover the remaining funding need to deliver our flagship markets this year.