The beauty of farmers markets is that they all have their own style and atmosphere, and the one in Qualicum Beach is certainly no exception in that respect. While not as large as some of the other markets on the Island, Qualicum’s vendors offer up an eclectic assortment of crafts, produce, preserves, meat and seafood products, baking, live music and childrens’ activities. It’s a humming little place, even when the winter and early spring indoor markets are running. There is substantial local support for the market throughout the year; when the tourist season hits the tempo kicks up a notch.
While Qualicum Beach is relatively small in terms of population (8,000 residents), the surrounding outlying areas provide venues for the production of a rich diversity of market-bound goods. Everything at the market must be grown, made or baked by the vendors. More than 30 sellers set up their stalls each Saturday morning during the outdoor season, running from the first Saturday in May to the first weekend in October, which marks the Canadian Thanksgiving. The winter and spring indoor markets tend to have fewer vendors, but are nonetheless a magnet for those who buy in to the ‘fresh, local’ mantra.
The range of fresh produce offered at the Qualicum Beach market is vast; growers in the area seem to be always trying something new. A couple of years ago when I couldn’t find snow peas at a single stall I commented on it to one of the vendors. The next season he showed up with not only snow peas, but sugar snaps – bonus for me, and bonus for him – he sells out at every market he offers them at now. Which, of course, is one of the beauties of purchasing at any farmers market – you get to talk to the folks who actually produce your food and often, with a little patience, you get what you want.
There are some really lovely crafts offered at this market, suitable for both gift-giving and home décor. Garden art and furniture of the highest quality proliferate. There is wearable art too, of every ilk, and jewellery, and hand-made soaps…the list is extensive.
If you are looking for free-range pork, chicken and eggs or seafood you can find it at this market. Ravenstone Farm proffers a tasty line of artisan sausages. There is beautiful artisan bread, to-die-for traditional British baking at the Island Highlander booth and the best biscotti anywhere, ever, produced by Mirella Trozzo of Biscotti di Notte. Elsa Heeps of From The Hearth Artisan Bakery specializes in gourmet, gluten-free pastries; there are bountiful bouquets to grace your home, award-winning cheeses, organic, fair-trade coffee beans, hand-made pasta, bedding plants and perennials…as the season progresses so do the offerings, until the markets at the height of summer explode with colour and flavour. Add to that the live entertainment, and you have the perfect way to kick off your weekend.
The Qualicum Beach Farmer’s Market operates indoors during the winter and spring months at the local community hall at 644 Memorial Avenue, at the corner of Memorial Avenue and Veterans Way. At the beginning of May vendors move outdoors and set up along the entire stretch of Veterans Way, where they remain until early October. The indoor market operates from 9 a.m.–noon each Saturday; the outdoor events get under way at 8:30 a.m. and run until noon.
For further information online: www.qbfarmersmarket.com
GPS co-ordinates are: Lat. 49.3484300997305
N 49 20.906 W 124 26.479