Problems at Calgary Farmers Market?

We’ve been going to the Calgary Farmers Market for a very long time now. Not quite since it opened, but I think not long afterwards. When we lived in Garrison Woods, it was a weekend ritual (it was a five-minute walk from our house) for breakfast. It was nice, unique, and homey.

But I fear it’s turning political and greedy, and the ultimate sufferers are regulars to the Market.

A few months ago, our favourite coffee bar, Bit O’ Beans closed. It wasn’t the most attractive place, but the staff were friendly, reasonably fast (given the traffic they usually got), and they made a mean yerba matte without charging an arm and a leg for their wares.

In its place is something right out of Starbucks. Fancy. Polished. Expensive. We’ve gone nowhere near it. I’ve had to revert buying tea from Totalitea, which is a bit more expensive (and admittedly not quite as good). Alex is in mourning for the loss of the English Fog (an Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea with milk), which she can’t get anywhere else in the market.

I could have accepted it as just that. But today we noticed something much nastier: King’s Catch Inc., the seafood stand, was closing. At a distance, I could only read the banner, which suggested they were just closing. But as you got nearer, there was a person standing out front with a sign that read:

Being forced out by Calgary Farmers Market.

I ran into my friend Mel in Sunworks Farm’s stand, and she told me the real deal: Calgary Farmers Market wouldn’t renew the lease because someone else offered more money for the same space.

My first reaction was one of revulsion. How political! How antithetical to the principle of a farmers market! How greedy! Who would be next because the board wasn’t earning enough?

That’s when it hit me: it’s still a capitalist system we live in. And if someone is willing to pay more, the landlord — the CFM board — has the luxury of taking that money and running with it.

That’s not to say I agree with it, though I do understand it. I don’t like the idea of every stall in the place turning into Sebastian & Wazhisname, which replaced Bit O’ Beans. God only knows what’s going into King’s Catch’s space, but if it looks too polished and planned … well, I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex and I start moving away from the Market as a place to visit regularly.

I like the idea of something small, regional, throw-together. When you start bending to the pocketbook and not to the ideal, are you still fulfulling needs? Or are you just unable to see the forest for the dollar bills?

3 Replies to “Problems at Calgary Farmers Market?”

  1. Phil and Sebastian are local boys committed to making amazing coffee. I avoided them in the beginning because I liked Bit o’ Beans so much but the boys at P & S have got it together, it’s the Starbucks-like crowd that sucks!!

  2. Hey Geoff,

    I have to confess, we’ve recanted our stance against P&S. We did some digging and found out that they’re not a massive chain — they just look the part. They’re much more down to earth, and make a good cuppa joe.

  3. What’s really going on at the Calgary Farmers market is: vendors were asked from the old market to help them build the market by investing $100 a square foot. In the lease these vendors had, they indicated they would pay so much and no more. When the market got itself into financial problems instead of fixing their own problems they broke the lease agreements with the vendors and demanded illegally more money. Some vendors left the market most are trapped because they have thousands of dollars invested. We had invested $50,000. Market raised our rent from $36000 to approx. $58000 in the first year. When we were forced out the market they refused to pay us our initial investment and now we are perusing the matter in court. The arrogance and for lack of a better word sleazy way of the market is they do not even respond to a lawyers letter for the monies they owe people. Allot of people like that market but really they have no idea how disrespectful the market is to vendors who supported them for years and helped them build the market.
    Myself I stay away from the Calgary Farmers Market just because I do not support business that treats calgarians so poorly. Especially out of towners.

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