Danusia Urbanski holds three dried morel mushrooms picked from around Lake Cowichan.

Danusia Urbanski holds three dried morel mushrooms picked from around Lake Cowichan.

Lake Cowichan vendors take advantage of crowds at Duncan Market

Local crafts people and other small, home based business owners from Lake Cowichan are taking advantage of the larger crowds.

The Duncan Farmer’s Market is now in full swing and many of the local crafts people and other small, home based business owners from Lake Cowichan are taking advantage of the larger crowds to generate summer income.

For those that don’t know about the market, it is held on Saturdays in the market square and along Ingram St. in downtown Duncan. Vendors from Duncan, Chemainus, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Cobble Hill, Cowichan Bay, Youbou, Honeymoon Bay and Lake Cowichan come to sell crafts, produce, soap products, ice cream, hand made clothing and jewelry, and much more.

This past Saturday, as part of the ongoing market and the celebration of Duncan Dayz -— a two day community event that took place in Duncan on July 13 and 14 — there were four vendors from Lake Cowichan who were selling their locally made, harvested, or prepared products.

Danusia Urbanski, of Wild West Mushrooms, is Lake Cowichan’s mushroom lady. She offers dried and fresh (when they are in season) mushrooms picked from various locations around Lake Cowichan. She is also part of the Salmon and Mushroom Festival in Lake Cowichan, which takes place on September 29 and 30 this year.

“I don’t reveal my hot spots,” she says.

Urbanski does, however, offer advice to mushroom pickers, and on occasion purchases mushrooms wholesale from other pickers in the area. She says that if mushroom pickers see her sign outside of her station on Oak Lane in Lake Cowichan, she is open for business and ready to purchase.

Urbanski says the Duncan Farmer’s Market is the best market on the island.

“It’s right in the middle, close to Nanaimo, close to Victoria, and everything,” she says. “I like the rules, the rules are great,” she adds.

Urbanski has done other markets in the past, but she didn’t like the way in which organizers ran them, as well as the treatment of the vendors.

“I think the person that is running it (the Duncan market) is just fantastic, a fabulous person.”

Urbanski is referring to one of the two organizers for the market, Dale Laterno. The other organizer is Pat Ormond. Ormond has been part of the Duncan Farmer’s Market for the past six years, and this year she has taken over the position of president of the City Square Market Society.

The other vendors tend to agree with Urbanski’s point of view.

Rommy Verlaan is the owner of Heart Song Flutes in Lake Cowichan. The flutes she makes are Lakota flutes, also known as the Native American Love Flute. She says she comes to the Duncan Farmer’s Market because of the variety of people that attend.

“There are more people here to sell stuff to. I get lots of tourists, I get lots of locals,” she says. “We get people from Victoria, we get people from up island we get travelers from Europe. So I have the mix of locals plus tourists from all over the world. I have my flutes in France and Germany and Scotland and Japan, from people who have bought them at the Duncan Market.”

She even has a map at home where she marks the places around the world where her flutes have found a home.

Verlaan plays her flutes as well, but she says she doesn’t play them as well as she makes them.

Verlaan offers workshops in the spring and the fall to those who would like to learn how to play. She also offers custom flutes. You can custom design the wood, the length, and the animal that sits at the top of the flute determines the key the flute is in. For more information, visit the Heart Song website heartsongflutes.ca.

Derek Zimmerman has been attending the market for the past couple of years now. Zimmerman is a glass blower who, with Etta Weissenmayer, creates hand-blown glass beads and pendants. They also make handmade soap.

For Zimmerman, the glass-blowing is more of a hobby than a source of income, one which he only began dabbling in a couple of years ago.

“I never thought about it (working with glass),” he says. “But my girlfriend suggested I try it.”

Zimmerman works out of his garage, using first a flame and then a kiln to set the glass.

Zimmerman says he goes to the Duncan Farmer’s Market every Saturday. “It’s my main market.”

Faizal Charania, another Lake Cowichan vendor, owns Depot Dawgs. He sells smokies, curry dogs, hot dogs, pop, muffins, coffee, and more.

The Duncan Farmer’s Market runs all year long, only taking a two week break after Christmas.

The market used to move indoors to the  Island Savings Centre when the weather became nasty in the winter months, but Ormond says that this year she has approached the vendors to talk about staying outside.

“We have done so in the past, even in minus six degree weather,” she says.

“This year we are trying to encourage small farmers to grow all year round,” she says. “People still have a living to make.”

To that end, market organizers have set up a farmers’ tent, and those that sell local produce are able to rent half a tent for half a day.

Ormond says it is important to the market to have vendor representation from all over the Cowichan Valley.

The criteria for participating in the market is that vendors “make it, bake it, grow it,” which fits into the market’s mandate to represent the Cowichan Valley as a whole.

There are many other Lake Cowichan, Youbou, and Honeymoon Bay artisans who regularly frequent the Duncan market. For more information, and a complete list of vendors, visit duncanfarmersmarket.ca.