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Farmers' market puts down roots

Island Roots Market Co-operative has found a place to permanently put down roots in central Nanaimo.

The farmers market co-operative, which has already attracted upwards of 160 members, has hunted for a home since it was formed in July 2012, first at the old Medical Arts Building at 350 Albert St., which was torn down, and then at the former Sun Glo Lumber warehouse at 540 Milton St., which was determined by the city to need structural and seismic upgrades before it could be officially zoned as retail space.

Seismic upgrades and rezoning are not issues at 625 Townsite Rd. where the market is set to sublet about 30 per cent of the space currently being used  by commercial cleaning product supplier Planet Clean.

"Hopefully we'll have the keys today [Wednesday] and we can then start doing a little clean-up and start organizing things," said Larry Whaley, market co-founder.

The market should be open by the end of April, but in the meantime there will be lots of discussion with members over how the market will be laid out and organized and, of course it will have to be physically set up, too.

"We'll need some volunteers to assist with that and we'll begin to make it happen," Whaley said.

Before it officially opens, though, smaller activities will be hosted at the Townsite location, including bake sales, the co-op's annual general meeting and whatever organizers can come up with to get people familiar with the location and what the co-operative is planning for the space.

"There will be an open house for members and wannabe members where we'll have an opportunity to talk about what they would like to see as far as layout is concerned and what facilities they would like to see in there," Whaley said.

One group of products that could soon be available at the market is locally produced craft beer, wine, cider and spirits.

The B.C. Association of Farmers' Markets issued a press release Dec. 11 announcing the B.C. government supports sampling sales of alcoholic beverages at temporary off-site retail locations, such as farmers' markets and that the decision about what items could be sold at a particular locate would be left up to the venue's management.

The release did not say exactly when the regulations are coming into effect.

"We'd certainly want to talk to anybody who produces that kind of product locally and see whether they're interested in our market and if they are we'd treat them the same as any other local producer, I would think," Whaley said. "Maybe we'll need to look at should our lunch counter have a local brew available for people when they want to stop in for lunch."

The topic is sure to come up at the open house, which is scheduled for sometime in January, but a firm date is yet to  be fixed.

Whaley doesn't foresee any issues that could interfere with finalizing the lease on the property.

"The problems in the past have been primarily we were trying to get in where it involved a change of use," Whaley said. "We're classified as retail and this is a retail location – has been retail forever – and I don't think there will be any problems there, so I can't see what might delay or mess this one up."

For more information about Island Roots Market Co-op, please visit the co-operative's website at http://bbycoop.ca/IRCoop/, its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/IslandRootsMarket, or contact Whaley at irco-op@shaw.ca.

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