Why We Love Farmers’ Markets

Why We Love Farmers’ Markets

What’s not to love?

The Kootenay Co-op supports Farmers’ Markets by supporting the West Kootenay EcoSociety (they’re the Organization of the Month this month, so you can support them too!).  Farmers’ Markets, like the Downtown Local Market on Wednesdays and the Cottonwood Community Market on Saturdays, connect farmers, artisans and producers directly with community members. Local markets help to move our region toward Kootenay Co-op’s Vision of “thriving communities with resilient food systems, where all people have access to affordable food that is healthy for our bodies, our communities, and the Earth.” There are so many reasons why this is good for you, me and our community, but we’ve whittled it down to eight reasons.

8 Reasons to Support Farmers’ Markets

1. Carbon footprint reduction

    • One of the best (and most delicious) ways you can make a dent in your carbon impact is by eating locally. Cutting down on food miles lowers our community’s collective carbon footprint by reducing food transportation and refrigeration.
    • Many of our market farmers are organic or are at least environmentally conscientious. Using integrated pest management techniques, being water-conscious, focusing on soil health, reducing erosion and promoting biodiversity are also ways agriculture can reduce carbon and water footprints.

2. Food system sustainability

    • Farmers’ Markets make our community more food resilient, giving us greater food security (reliable access to good food) and food sovereignty (power over our own food system; the right to healthy and culturally appropriate foods).
    • This is especially important in our little mountain city where there is only one main road that are food is trucked in on. We have seen the effects of this particular food system’s vulnerability when there’s been a washout or an avalanche that delays our food trucks and it’s scary. Supporting our local farmers and producers when times are good will help ensure they are there for us when times are bad.

3. Face-to-face connection

    • Knowing where (and WHO) your food comes from builds trust, connectedness and community cohesion.
    • Ask the questions that matter to you, be that whether a vendor is actively involved in their community, or how a farmer treats their animals. Look them in the eye and find the answers that help you feel good about what you eat.
    • A visit to the market averages 10-15 interactions with vendors and other community members making it more like an outing than a chore.
    • Farmers’ Markets are a community hub, a place to meet up with friends and get a taste of our thriving community.

4. Food literacy

    • Not only can you learn more about where your food comes from and how it’s produced, you can learn about new-to-you foods.
    • Market vendors always have great ideas for how best to enjoy their products. Ask them for serving tips or recipe ideas!

5. In-season produce and Farm-to-Table freshness

    • Following the seasons with what you put on your plate is a supremely delicious way to make a difference environmentally.
    • In-season produce is not only at the peak of its deliciousness, but it is likely healthier too. That’s because the fresher it is, the more nutrient-dense it’s likely to be and it doesn’t get much fresher than your local farmers’ market! Nutrient-rich soil (a major tenet of organic farming) produces nutrient-rich produce. Those nutrients are always more abundant when the produce is harvested and delivered the same day
    • Nothing beats a sun-warmed tomato fresh off the vine with your toes in the soil of your backyard garden, but a farm-fresh tomato carefully picked that morning by your local neighbour-farmer comes pretty darn close!

6. Biodiversity

    • As stated early, many of the market farm are organic, where farmers support biodiversity on their farms, not only in their crops, but also by providing wildlife corridors and buffer zones.
    • Diversifying varieties and crops is better for the soil and also for food security; a pest or drought that devastates one crop, might not impact another.
    • Because market farmers don’t need to produce wholesale amounts of any one crop, they have the freedom to test out unique and interesting things, including long-forgotten heirloom varieties. Some of these crops may be better suited to the changing climate. Farmer adaptability will be crucially important in the coming decades.
    • Many organic farmers are passionate seed-savers, finding the particular varieties that work best for our regional growing conditions and preserving them for future generations. Biodiversity and seed-saving are critical to food security.

7. Support the local economy

    • Buying goods directly from the people who produce them strengthens the economic base of our community by keeping your dollars close to home.
    • Keeping our neighbours in business is important… plus, our local farmers are responsible stewards of their land, preserving and safeguarding farmland for generations to come! Again, this makes us more food secure and more resilient as a community.
    • Buying directly from the farmer gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance in today’s globalized economy. According to the Farmers Market Coalition, growers selling locally create four times as many jobs as those not selling locally, and return three times as much of their sales to the local economy compared to those who sell through chains.

8. Feel gooooood

      • Nourish your body and your soul. Knowing where your food comes from may give you a renewed appreciation for what you put into your body.
      • When you shop at our local markets, not only are you supporting local farmers, the local economy, our regional food resiliency and reducing your carbon footprint, you’re also supporting the West Kootenay EcoSociety. The EcoSociety promotes sustainable local food systems, takes action to reduce the crisis of climate chance and preserves wild places, ecosystems, air and water for future generations.
      • EcoSociety also participates in the BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program, which distributes coupons to low-income families and seniors. According to their website, “The coupons may be used to purchase fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, eggs, nuts and herbs at participating BC farmers’ markets. By enabling low-income citizens to purchase fresh food directly from the farmers, the coupon program increases access to healthy food while supporting local producers – double win!”

And if you can’t make it to market that week, or if you can’t find that one special ingredient you need for your new favourite recipe… You know you can always head to your community-owned grocery store which also has a strong focus on organic and True Local, community building, health empowerment, and environmental stewardship.


What is Food Security anyway?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines three facets of food security:

  1. Food availability: having available sufficient quantities of food on a consistent basis.
  2. Food access: having sufficient resources, both economic and physical, to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.
  3. Food use: This means the appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.

The Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) adds a fourth facet:

4. The stability of the first three dimensions of food security over time.

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”-UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

Why does Food Security matter?

There is a clear and direct relationship between food insecurity, malnourishment and poverty. Chronic hunger results in an array of additional socio-economic challenges. What begins as malnourishment leads to an individual’s inability provide for their families, often leading  to a reduced ability to work, and give birth to and nurture healthy children. On a larger scale, these individual disadvantages undermines a region’s ability to social, environmental and economic sustainability.

“The number of people without enough food to eat on a regular basis remains stubbornly high, at over 800 million, and is not falling significantly.” -UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)”.

Is Canada Food Secure?

While chronic hunger is not generally thought of as a Canadian issue, we are part of a global economy, and an industrial food system, that perpetuates and exacerbates food insecurity in other nations.

Domestically, we are facing serious challenges to our health, stemming from all three facets of food security: availability, access and use. It is fundamentally important that we in Canada consider how we plan to feed ourselves healthfully into the future.

“Close to two and a half million Canadians are food insecure. Farmers and fishers are going out of business, our natural environment is being pushed to the limit, a quarter of Canadians are considered obese, and we are the only G8 country without a nationally-funded school meal program.”  – Food Secure Canada


How can we help make the Kootenays more Food Secure?

Good question. An important part of the solution is to grow, process and preserve more healthy foods closer to home. As consumers, we can buy from local farms and vendors, choose imported food from companies with a track record of integrity, and purchase products that are minimally-processed. Stores can ensure that people of all socio-economic demographics can access this food by offering the best possible pricing on healthy foods, providing education and support on subjects like cooking, shopping on a budget, growing food, nutrition and more. As citizens, we can prioritize ‘the care and feeding of all of us’ as a national and community priority.

“Did you know that a hundred years ago, the Kootenay region was a net exporter of food? Today we import well over half the food we consume. The average food item in North America travels somewhere between 1500 and 2500 miles by the time it reaches our tables. Our capacity to feed ourselves has become dangerously dependent on a globalized food distribution system that is vulnerable to a growing host of externalities. Local food security would institute a shift toward more locally based agriculture, food processing and distribution systems.”  -The Future of Food in the Kootenays


What is your food Co-op doing about it?

At the Kootenay Co-op, our Board of Directors, Management team and Staff are all lead by the Co-op’s mission which is, in part:

To promote community involvement by cultivating a cooperative, sustainable, organic way of life by providing the highest quality affordable natural and organic foods and encouraging a healthy local economy.


We have always interpreted this through a ‘food security lens’ by:

  • supporting local farmers and suppliers by encouraging sales of local foods and products (see pages 10 and 12-15 for examples).
  • supporting companies that conduct their business in a socially and environmentally responsible manner (like Camino, Bob’s Red Mill and others)
  • supporting consumers by providing the best possible price for healthy foods
  • supporting community health by carrying nutritious foods for people with a wide variety of dietary needs and restrictions
  • working in partnership with local organisations that seek to increase equitable access to food for all members of the community
  • providing free or affordable access to food information and educational opportunities

-On the Table, Spring Issue 2013.


Sugar & Nutrition

Sugar Information

Of all the five primary tastes- salty, sweet, sour, pungent and bitter- sweetness is often said to be the most popular. According to ancient Chinese philosophy it is the ‘mother’ of all the others. Humans have an inborn preference for sweets, which seems to have helped our ancestors select the most nutritionally dense foods.

Sugar cane (Saccharum sp.) is a perennial grass, native of Southeast Asia and has been used as a sweetener for over 5000 years. Sugar cane is a very efficient producer of pure sucrose and has become the major source of the world’s sugar supply. Today the largest producer of Sugar Cane, by far is Brazil.

Sugar cane stalks are juiced, and then processed to produce the many sugar products on the market, from the unrefined Rapadura, to the very refined white sugar. All sugar products have a high glycemic index*, though some are more nutritive than others. All natural sugar products have been produced in a Sugar Mill, where refined sugars are further processed at a Refinery. Bagasse is the biomass remaining after sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract their juice. Sugar Mills can produce up to 30% of their own power by burning the bagasse as biofuel. Bagasse is also used in the production of tree-free paper.

Rapadura is a pure organic sugar made from the first step of sugar cane processing. The whole, pure juice is evaporated, crystallized and filtered through a stainless steel sieve to make this powdered, whole food sweetener. It contains all the nutrients from the whole sugar cane, and has a strong molasses taste. All Rapadura is a Fair Trade** product grown sustainably in Brazil.

Evaporated Cane Juice is milled from the original sugar cane juice. In this process the juice is clarified in a natural lime solution. From this stage it is concentrated by evaporation, washed, crystallized and then cured. Evaporated cane juice is light in colour and flavour, as the act of crystallization separates the majority of molasses, leaving up to 2% in the finished product.

Sucanat is also made from this first juicing of the sugar cane.  It is a pure, whole food product made by heating the clarified first pressed cane juice in large vats and stirring by hand with big wooden paddles. It is the process of dehydration, aeration and granulation (as opposed to evaporation), which produces this dark, rich tasting, dry, free-flowing sugar. Sucanat is 13% molasses and 87% sugar.

Turbinado sugar is made from the unwashed evaporated cane juice, which is then spun in a turbine (hence the name Turbinado), to produce the large sparkling golden crystals.

Demerara sugar, sometimes called Raw Sugar is much like Turbinado, except it is spun in a centrifuge. This sugar takes its name from the Demerara colony of Guyana, which was the original source of this type of sugar.

Brown Sugar is soft, moist and fine grained. Traditionally it is refined white sugar with molasses added back to it. Some natural foods brands of Brown Sugar add molasses to evaporated cane juice sugar, creating a richer more whole food product.

White sugar, by definition, must be 99.8 % pure sucrose; this is a highly refined product stripped of all the fiber, vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients which naturally occur in the suagr cane. White sugar is a product of a sugar refinery. The sugar-refining industry often uses bone char (calcinated animal bones) for decolourizing the sugar.

Glycemic Index (also GI) is a ranking system for carbohydrates based on their effect on blood glucose levels. It compares available carbohydrates gram for gram in individual foods providing a numerical, evidence-based index of post-meal blood sugar. Carbohydrates that break down rapidly during digestion have the highest glycemic index. Carbohydrates that break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the blood stream, have a low glycemic index. To learn more about this ranking system, and to look up individual sweeteners and foods see www.glycemicindex.com

This website is the ‘home of the glycemic index’ – the official website for the glycemic index and International GI database, which is based at the University of Sydney, Australia.