Where is all the farm?

Picture this: a bustling, vibrant farmers market, brimming with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It’s an image many of us hold dear, yet as the summer markets swing open their gates around April & May, a common question arises—where is all the farm produce? Why are the fruits and vegetables not here yet?

This period from May to June, often greeted with anticipation, marks a transition time known as the shoulder season, which is increasingly affected by the unpredictability brought about by climate change. And despite the unpredictability, our markets are anything but dull. You’ll find a unique assortment of produce from those farmers who, through resilience and innovation, continue to cultivate and sell year-round.

We are grateful to so many in our community who understand the seasonality and unpredictability brought by the surprising weather incidents. However grocery stores offering off-season products round the year might be setting (wrong) expectations for some! The reality is that farmers markets dance to a different tune—the rhythm of nature itself.

In British Columbia, the cadence of the seasons and the agricultural cycle play critical roles in the product life cycle of our markets. The distinct seasonal shifts shape not only the growth and harvest of crops but also when farmers can bring their produce to you. Transitioning from winters with their own kind of abundance to the summer markets of different colours and varieties, is a significant shift, not just in the weather but in the variety of offerings you’ll find at the markets.

As the year unfolds, so does the variety at the markets. From the hearty storage crops of winter, like carrots and onions, to the tender greens of spring, and the bountiful berries and tomatoes of summer, and squashes to celebrate the beautiful fall, each season is a celebration of local agriculture and patience.

Yet, we cannot ignore the growing impact of climate change on this cycle. The increasing frequency of extreme weather events—be it floods, heatwaves, or wildfires—challenges farmers with delayed growth, shortened seasons, or even total crop loss. These challenges can lead to late cropping and, subsequently, affect when and how our farmers participate in the markets.

Despite these hurdles, the spirit of our farmers remains strong. Adapting and innovating, they continue to bring fresh, local produce to our tables. Supporting our farmers markets is more than a shopping trip; it’s an investment in our local economy and a tribute to the tenacity of our farmers.

So, the next time you wander through Vancouver Farmers’ Markets, take a moment to appreciate the journey of each fruit and vegetable—the dedication it represents. As the season progresses, relish the increasing abundance and diversity that our local farmers work so hard to provide.

Thank you to everyone who supports and connects with our local food systems. Your engagement is invaluable, and for that, we are profoundly grateful.

Key data and information for this blog post is credited to Katie Simmons, Operations Manager, VFM. Thank you, Katie,  for your valuable insights and data contributions.