Sleeping in on Saturdays is out of the question for Jordan Marr.
The 32-year-old Peachland man is usually up by 5:30 a.m., which gives him time for a few chores before setting out for the Penticton Farmers’ Market, where he officially became a permanent vendor when the season opened on Saturday.
Marr sold some of the 30 crops from his two-acre Homestead Organic Farm last year as a casual vendor, but his stall location often moved. Not anymore, and that’s important for building a customer base.
“It means if we continue to sell really high-quality stuff, people will know where to find us if they want to get it again,” he said.
Marr acknowledged that although Homestead has diversified into retail, veggie boxes and chef sales, the Saturday market is still “crucial” to success.
“I can come and get connected with the chefs who are also around here, so I turn it into a market day and a chef delivery day,” he said. “But more importantly, this is a really well-supported market. We can come here with a lot of stuff and know it’s going to sell. That’s really something we can count on each week.”
Although he grew up in a non-farming family in Kamloops, Marr has since dedicated his life to earning a living from the ground.
“I got fired up about… some of the negative consequences of the modern agricultural system,” he explained. “It brought really cheap food and a lot of other benefits, but it also came with negative consequences, and I really wanted to be part of a reform to farming and bringing back the small-scale farm.”
He’s hoping his success will encourage other people his age to get into agriculture.
“We get to call ourselves young farmers until we’re 40,” Marr noted with a laugh, “because the average age of farmers is a lot older than other professions.”
Erin Trainer, who manages the Penticton Farmers’ Market, said her organization is doing what it can to help the cause.
“That’s what the farmers’ market is all about is supporting small-scale farmers,” she explained.
This year’s edition should feature up to 70 vendors at the height of the summer growing season, although it started off at about half that number Saturday, Trainer said, adding there are no plans to amend the event’s formula.
“I think that’s a good thing, because that’s what our customers really like. They like to see the regular vendors and they know where to go to get certain products from certain vendors,” she said.
Next door to the farmers, the Downtown Community Market also unfolded its tables this weekend.
Co-ordinator Laurel Burnham opened the season by ringing bells while walking up and down two blocks of Main Street .
“Some markets use whistles… but I choose to use bells, and it’s an old feng shui technique for bringing in the energy, actually, and it works, because we’ve been phenomenally successful,” she said.
About 100 vendors were on hand for opening day, but Burnham expects closer to 250 during summer months.