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Building community through local food – from the fields to Surrey’s Civic Plaza

With over 11 years of experience in the community since Peter Leblanc and small group of farmers decided to launch the first ever Surrey Urban Farmers Market, this year’s market season launches in a new, bigger and better venue than ever – Surrey’s Civic Plaza.

The original market was created based off of a desire to make fresh produce accessible to the urban community, and since then it has continued to grow and thrive with the mission of reconnecting the city and it’s people with “local, sustainable, food sources and small businesses.” “The market brings people from diverse backgrounds together into a common area.

Surrey is such a large area and food is always a common ground between individuals” explains Anna Hall, Market Manager and Board of Director member.

This market not only gives an opportunity to the community to try and buy some of BC’s freshest produce and products (and meet face-to-face with the producers), but also creates an environment for community-building with it’s performers, community workshops, and kids activities planned each market season.

Surrey Urban Farmers Market is a member of the BC Farmers Markets, and a partner with the Food Nutrition Coupon Program. Made up of a five-person Board of Directors and one staff member (Sukhman Heir – Market Coordinator), this small and mighty group of individuals puts a lot of work and long hours to make this market a reality year after year.

“It’s a fine balancing act to juggle the market and all its needs while keeping in mind that we are all volunteers” Hall reveals. The planning begins as early as December – six-months prior to the season launch, and shortly after their AGM.

“It’s a collaboration (leading up to our first market day) of directors putting in their time to make the farmers market community an enjoyable experience for the vendors and community.”

“We believe that smiles and food are common languages” shares Hall. “This new venue is much needed for us.

While we loved our time outside the North Surrey Recreation Centre, it was time for us to move into the gorgeous Civic Plaza. We had issues three or four years back being at the Plaza due to construction.

It ended up becoming quite a problem back then, but now that the plaza is complete, we are excited to be there. We are officially in the heart of downtown Surrey.”

With the new location brings an increase in size to the market – translating to a larger depth and breadth of vendors!

Among the obvious increase in size to the market, Hall lists some of the many perks of being in the new location this year being increased accessibility with easy transit options, free 2-hour underground parking, and a broader range of volunteers from different cultures and age groups soon to participate.

“We have many amazing vendors this season. Earth-friendly vendors are becoming a bigger part of the market and reaching out to us!” An example Hall lists is Eat the Dishes – an immersive experience where you eat a delicious meal in a literally edible dish with edible cutlery.

Yes, you are really eating the dishes – this is no joke! You end your dining experience by having the option to wash and reuse your cloth napkin that comes with the meal too. Now that’s what we call sustainability!

New vegan vendors such as PlantBase Food and Natural Products and organic coffee and tea company Stephens Coffee Service will be new additions to the market roster this year. Other long-time Surrey Urban Farmers Market vendors such as Birk Farms from Abbotsford with their famous non-spray berries will be present, along with the Osoyoos Fruit Market King (bringing the southern Okanagan’s best pitted fruits such as fresh cherries and peaches). 

“We will have fresh, local veggies as well [such] as “Oh My Green” which sells delicious and nutritious sprouts and many other quality artisan items” Hall explains.

In addition to food-based items, home good vendors or craftspeople such as The Twisted Lemon will be bringing their natural soaps and lotions once again for another season, showcasing their products which aim to use ingredients that could have been found and/or made in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s.

Longest standing vendor at the market, Moonlight Wolf, will be selling handmade Aboriginal jewellery and dream catchers along with well-known silver jeweller, Wisla.

Besides the top-notch list of vendors, the Surrey Urban Farmers Market has an amazing lineup of performers and entertainment for the market season.

In celebration of Aboriginals Day, the market will be kicking off their performance schedule on June 15th with a performance from the Stars Of the North group performing in full regalia at 1:00PM with a journey-dance,

followed by two interactive drumming/dance numbers encouraging market guests to participate.

Stars Of the North is a contemporary, family, drum-group on a learning journey in search of their native Aborignal cultural roots.

Showcasing their own written music and hand-made regalia and instruments, they aim to retell stories passed down to them by their elders to share with their respective communities. Beyond the obvious buzz of the event itself, this year’s market is sharing four of it’s dates with other community events held in Central City, the Surrey Filipino Heritage Festival, Surrey Health Expo, African Heritage Festival, and a MOSIAC Seniors Event.

“We are excited about the opportunity and we are hoping this year will be a great one for the community” says Hall. Don’t forget, an event like this cannot be sustainable without its people, so if you are looking for a volunteer position for the summer – the market has the opportunity just for you!

With a variety of volunteer positions open with flexible time commitments ranging between 8:00AM and 3:00PM on Saturdays (and Fridays to put out signs around town), there is no excuse not to get involved.

It is too important to mention that the Surrey Urban Farmers Market is a registered non-profit organization which runs solely off of vendor fees and grants from Vancity and the City of Surrey. 

They are actively seeking sponsors to help the market succeed and continue to reach new limits. “Our market is more than just a farmer’s market, we host a beautiful place that allows people to start businesses. Lots of individuals started their companies, hobbies, or passions first in the farmers markets” explains Hall..

“We would like to thank everyone who makes our market possible, from our amazing volunteers, the City of Surrey staff, North Surrey Rec Centre staff, and so many more.

Thank you! We look forward to seeing you at the market” says Hall on behalf of the other Board of Directors and herself.

Mayor McCallam will be visiting the market and will host a cake-cutting ceremony at 12:30PM this Saturday to celebrate our local community of farmers and artisans, and the move to the new location – so don’t miss out!

And also important to mention, the market runs rain or shine!

“The rain during summer is a welcoming sign for farmers and adds fuel to all the fruits and vegetables that our community loves so much.”

Running from June 15th to October 5th from 10:00AM-2:00PM, come support the Surrey Urban Farmers Market as it debuts at it’s new location and promotes building community through local food.

To learn more about the upcoming Surrey Urban Farmers Market season or how you can get involved, check them out on their website or social media platforms:

Robyn Freiheit

Robyn Freiheit

Robyn is a status-quo disruptor, an old-soul, and has a serious passion towards continuous learning driven by a curiosity for the unknown. A creative and equally analytical thinker with experience in leadership, project management and marketing strategy. When she’s not working you can find her in the kitchen, searching for new music, or meandering local thrift stores, antique stores, or flea markets for a unique find.