The Honeymoon Bay Outdoor Market is 10 years young this season, which is no small feat for a community of approximately 600.
On Monday, several dedicated vendors got together to prepare the stalls and the grounds for May 7, the market’s 2016 opening.
Brenda Morrison, owner of Earth Mother Quality Herbs, has been selling her natural products at the market since the very beginning. Morrison makes and sells a variety of products including after sun cream, spring comfrey salve and she’s even working on an herbal sunscreen for later this year. She uses plants harvested from the Honeymoon Bay area including St. John’s Wort, plantain and chickweed.
That dedication to local is part of what Morrison and others love about their market.
“It’s the way a lot of markets used to be a long time ago,” she said. “Now we get very commercialized in some of the market. But that’s the beauty of this market, it’s still that small town kind of market.”
The Honeymoon Bay Outdoor Market is unique on Vancouver Island, in that no other farmers’ market here has permanent stalls in place. They were all constructed using recycled wood.
Glenn MacLean has helped to build some of those stalls over the past nine years he and his wife have been selling their wares at the market. They offer cheese breads, herbs, jams, starter plants and more at a Mexican-themed La Cantina Bandido, with its blue frame and collection of tequila bottles.
MacLean said the market started out as just a handful of vendor stalls near The Coffee Mill cafe (which closed three years ago), slowly growing to the now close to 20 stalls. The market would add more whenever someone new wanted to set up their own permanent stall.
The market has grown in popularity as much as size he said.
“Now it’s got word of mouth, it’s a destination, people come from Nanaimo, Victoria, Sooke when they do the circle route,” he said, adding it has also been a draw for locals.
“It brings people out. This used to be a really quiet town and this seems to bring people out. It’s brought people out from in their yards and out talking to people.”
Maureen Quested of Lakeside Garden and Gifts said most of the market’s business is local or from Lake Cowichan.
“And from the Gordon Bay provincial park. A lot of people walk up as an outing,” she said. “It’s quite surprising the number of people.”
Quested started about seven years ago with just produce directly from her garden.
“I had loads of cucumbers so I’d bring them up to the cafe and would ask people if they wanted to buy any. So they said why don’t you get a stall,” she said.
According to Quested, The Coffee Mill and the market augmented each other. The land is currently for sale and it’s not clear what will happen to the market if the land is sold.
But for now, the vendors are focusing on the coming season.
“It’s fun because there are so many different people. Some of us have farms or large gardens, and then there are bakers and crafters and a real variety,” said Quested.
Starting May 7 (and going until Oct. 8), the market runs every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Because I usually do a little work afterwards, any latecomers, I’d be happy to try and sell them something,” said Quested with a laugh.