Grand Forks Farmers Market has a long history with Boundary farmers – Grand Forks Gazette

The Grand Forks Valley has a rich and varied history of vegetable and fruit production. From large commercial fields to small home gardens, our valley has produced millions of tons of food over the decades.

Early settlers established ranches and orchards in the early 1900s. With the arrival of the Doukhobors came the development of huge tracts of land into orchards, vegetable and berry fields. Cars of fruit were shipped by rail to the prairie provinces in the first half of the 20th century. Berry and fruit jams were made in the local jam factory. The original owners of the Deane Farm property were Japanese settlers who grew carrots and onions for sowing. The barns on their property were built by the family at least 100 years ago. These settlers were originally boat builders and the large barn still standing resembles an upside down boat. Other farmers have established market gardens and greenhouses. The North Fork Valley had many thriving family ranches at this time. The valley was largely self-sufficient in food during those years.

During the 1940s, part of the land was used for the production of vegetable and flower seeds to fill the void caused by the devastation of seed fields in Europe during the Second World War. By the mid-20th century, farmers were establishing fields of potatoes, onions, cabbage, and cauliflower. Grand Forks has become well known for its “Dry Belt Potatoes”. The Lodder, Hove, Abetkoff, Sugimoto, Ogloff, Marchal and Gritchen families and others made potato farming a major agricultural industry in the valley. This legacy continues to this day.

The tradition of home gardens and orchards has always been part of the Grand Forks mosaic. By the end of the 20th century, many people had moved away from home gardens and were increasingly dependent on supermarkets for their fresh produce needs. The massive production of corporate farms, largely in California, has gradually invaded the vegetable aisle of our supermarkets. Today, in the 21st century, climate change, droughts and floods are dramatically reducing the food that can be produced in many parts of the world. It’s time to turn to our local food producers to regain the self-sufficiency that this valley enjoyed 75 years ago.

In the 1980s, a few people gathered to sell goods on the sidewalk in front of the Grand Forks Credit Union, now the office of Dave Dale Insurance. The market had moved behind the courthouse in 1988 when Deane Farms joined. In the mid-1990s, the market moved to City Park and Ann Casey became the first official market manager. From its humble beginnings, the market has grown into a twice-weekly market with farmers, ranchers and artisans from Christina Lake in Christian Valley congregating at Gyro Park every Tuesday and Friday from May through October.

The Grand Forks Farmer’s Market is an essential part of local food security. It provides an outlet for our farmers to sell their vegetables and fruits in a central location. A group of dedicated volunteers follow the rules and guidelines of the BC Farmers Market Association to keep the market running smoothly and meet the needs of farmers and shoppers.

Being a market gardener on the frontier is not for the faint-hearted, but it is a very rewarding profession. Every year we learn from the past and face new challenges. Unpredictable weather conditions are our biggest concern in this time of climate change. Our crops must adapt to extreme temperatures and humidity, while maintaining the excellent quality that Grand Forks is known for. Some farmers have opted for cold frames and greenhouses to extend the season and protect themselves from frost, hail and extreme temperatures. New varieties are tested, mulching practices are implemented to retain moisture, and better pruning methods are used to control heat damage. The market is thrilled to see new young farmers developing their growing skills and expanding the market with their enthusiasm and creativity.

Our market is fortunate to have the support of the local community and seasonal visitors each year. More and more families are discovering how delicious local produce is and how long it keeps fresh after you bring it home. Foreign agricultural companies focus on vegetable varieties that can be harvested by machine and shipped long distances. Our local farmers choose varieties with the best flavors. Without the extreme expense of transporting produce thousands of miles, the cost of locally grown produce is competitive with supermarket prices.

If you haven’t stopped by the Grand Forks Farmers Market to meet our farmers, now is the perfect time to do so! You’ll find over 25 different vegetables that are picked weekly by Boundary farmers. Many more varieties of vegetables will start soon. If you’re struggling to stretch your budget to include fresh, healthy vegetables and fruits, stop by the market. We know you will be satisfied with your purchases.

James V. Payne