Posted by: jillianglover | February 9, 2012

Is Vancouver Getting a Permanent Indoor Farmers’ Market?

Vancouver’s City Market, est. 1908 in South False Creek

Metro Vancouver is no stranger to farmers’ markets, yet it has been decades since we had a permanent building where local farmers could sell their produce. Over 100 years ago, one of Vancouver’s first farmers’ markets opened on the southern shore of False Creek at Westminster Avenue (now Main Street) on Saturday, Aug. 15, 1908. It was called Vancouver’s City Market. According to an article in the Tyee:

“The grand building with dual bell towers and a generous waterfront promenade was plastered with signs advertising retail and wholesale “farm products” for sale and a restaurant serving “meals at all hours.” Rail tracks in the foreground illustrated the prime mode of transportation bringing food from the Fraser Valley to be sold at the market.”

New Westminster also had a permanent structure for its Farmer’s Market, which opened in 1892. The City Market was on the waterfront between 4th and 6th Streets at Lytton Square until it burned to the ground in a massive fire six years later.

Inside New Westminster’s City Market

Indoor local markets may seem like a thing of the past in most modern cities, but the demand for local food is growing with the popularity of temporary, outdoor farmers’ markets. And behind the scenes, the team that brought you Vancouver’s farmers markets are looking to form a permanent local food hub in the city. Borrowing from the concept of the former “City Market” of 1908, a “New City Market” concept has been developed over an 18-month period by the Local Food First steering group.

Its Project Lead, Tara McDonald is the executive director of the Vancouver Farmers Markets Society, which organizes all of the outdoor farmers markets in Vancouver.  The New City Market will aim to serve three main functions for Vancouver’s burgeoning local food scene. One, as a processing facility with certified kitchens for canning and other value-added food preparation; two, as a permanent market space where farmers can store and sell produce wholesale or retail; and three, as an aggregator of services such as education, community outreach and marketing.

“We need to think of the bigger picture and how much an amenity such as this would benefit our city,” said Brent Granby, former COPE Candidate for Park Board. “In just over 10 years Vancouver’s Farmers’ Markets went from a one location, weekly community gathering running from May to October to a five-location economic powerhouse, pumping $10 million into the local economy last year, including $4.1 million in direct sales.”

According to its website, the primary purpose of New City Market is to provide a permanent space for vendors and fill a major gap in the local food system that is not being satisfied by the food industry:

‘This industry is driven predominantly by large box wholesalers, distributors and retailers. Through workshops, interviews and research with various stakeholders in the local food movement such as farmers, restaurateurs, retailers, eateries, distributors, food advocates and local government the Local Food First group determined that there was a need for the following services and facilities at NCM: “Year-round weekly indoor farmers’ and chefs’ markets; as well as a commercial kitchen, storage and local farm-product distribution support.”’

Proposal for Vancouver’s New City Market

When I heard about the New City Market, my first thought was, “Great idea, but how does this differ from the already successful Granville Island Market?”

According to the Business Plan Lead, Darren Stott, “The intention is to only have or mostly have direct sales at the New City Market, very unlike Granville Island. This means only people who grew it, baked it or made it can sell it at our market. Also, the model we are proposing for the market is to have additional profitable generating functions that offset the extra costs of operating out of a building, such as office leasing, event space leasing, restaurant space leasing and meeting room rentals. We believe with the right location, these can not only generate revenue to keep stall rental fees down for example, but also compliment the food hub.”

The project is has already received a $100,000 grant from Vancity to develop its business plan. The next step is securing a site. “We’re really focusing on the False Creek Flats area,” says McDonald. Along with the historical connection with the 1908 market, the area is centrally located, has easy cross-town access and, perhaps most importantly, it is underdeveloped.”

Construction is proposed to begin in 2013. If you want to know more about the New City Market, attend the “Meet Your Maker” event at the Croatian Cultural Centre on February 28th at 9:00am. You can register here.

Also posted on: This City Life



  1. Thanks for the thorough article Jillian.
    Anyone is invited to check our preliminary business plan out at and if they like to add any further comments and feedback there.
    Business Plan Lead

  2. This is such a great idea – something that this city really needs….I know what I would be doing every saturday morning! Is there anything that the general public can do to help this along?

  3. The new one is ugly. Why can’t they just build something more timeless, like the original Market, it looks much more beautiful.

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