A farmer's life is feast or famine

Small-scale farmers overcome distribution challenges by teaming with foodies to sell produce from front porches throughout Vancouver

Any harvest a farm can't sell as it’s picked will go to waste, or if another few moment can be found at the end of a 16-hour day, a few surplus raspberries will get frozen for winter sale. But come winter, farmers markets dwindle. Fresh, local food is suddenly less abundant and what a farmer makes in the summer has to carry the cost of farm and family through the rest of the year.  

This summer, front porches throughout Greater Vancouver joined a movement to help bridge the crevice between feast and famine. On decks and verandas, in yards and garages, produce from Fraser Valley farmers was sold at small-scale markets every week. The front and back yards belonging to dozens of locavores became pick-up spots for people ordering food through an online farmers market.   

Established by a group of loyal local foodies and farmer-market groupies, the Neighbours Organic Weekly Co-op (NOWBC) organized an online farmers market and neighbourhood distribution system. By scooping up the summer's excess and bringing farmers' bounty to any home in the city, the co-op helped farmers reach more buyers and sell more of their abundant summer harvest.  

“I choose to buy through NOWBC because I know the organization has done my homework for me,” said Meg O'Shea, who buys local, organic fruits and vegetables through NOW.

Twenty-five families offer their porches as a produce pick-up spot across Greater Vancouver in neighbourhoods including Mount Pleasant, Riley Park, North Vancouver, Dunbar, UBC, Fairview, Renfrew Heights, Commercial Drive, Coquitlam and New Westminster.  Front porch markets will run all year round helping to distribute the winter harvest too.  Though the harvest may be smaller, so are the number of farmers markets and NOWBCers don't want to see any carrots or beets left in the ground for lack of a place to sell them!  

“One of the challenges for small-scale farms is finding appropriate outlets to market their products,” said Christopher Bodnar of Glen Valley Organic Farm.    

That challenge may have just gotten smaller in Vancouver, BC. 

For more information on NOWBC, visit www.nowbc.ca.

Or contact [email protected]

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