Canada Day in Victoria was a blast. There were free trolley rides up and down the main streets, an international food market by the harbour, and with only a small morning shower on an otherwise sunny day, performers and vendors were all out on the streets of Victoria.
Bastion Square was also bustling with vendors, including a large stand full of fresh vegetables, bakery goods, and a variety of colourful food jars. I was drawn to the table full of morel mushrooms, one of the most delicious mushroom varieties I have been able to try.
This food market is a product of The Island Chefs Collaborative, ICC, a group of Vancouver Island chefs that share the same vision of food sustainability and have a desire to help out local farmers. Formed in 1999, this was really a major step in building a strong relationship between chefs and farmers. The Bastion Square food market is up every Thursday and Friday from 10am to 5pm and gives local farmers a chance to have their products available to the public. It differs from regular farmer’s markets in that the farmers don’t have to sell their products themselves. Instead, ICC drives around and collects produce from farms all over the Saanich Peninsula to bring to the market, which is then looked after by ICC volunteers.
On this particular day, however, many of the farmers were in the Square for a very special presentation. Ken Nakano, president of ICC and Executive Sous Chef at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, was here to present grants to select farmers living in the Capital Region District. They are given out by ICC each year to help relatively new farmers with their equipment and operations cost.
The grant money was raised this year through a fundraising festival held at Fort Rodd Hill in May called “Defending our Backyard”. It was clearly a success, with a total of $10,000 in grants being given out this year to seven farmers. One farmer, Jana McLaughlin from Rare Earth Organics, is in her 6th year of farming and in addition to having her produce sold in Bastion Square, also sets up a booth at the James Bay Market on Saturdays. She will be using her grant money to build a multi-season greenhouse to grow hot crops in the summer and provide warmth and protection from the elements for winter growing.
If you’re in the Victoria area, come drop by Bastion Square and support our local farmers!