Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

St. Norbert Farmers' Market has a million-dollar plan to expand

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THE St. Norbert Farmers' Market is looking to grow and needs about $1 million to plant the seed.

Manitoba's largest outdoor farmers market is planning to further develop its Pembina Highway site by adding new indoor and outdoor structures, better vendor spaces, improved traffic for pedestrians and vehicles and increased signage.

Marilyn Firth, community relations manager for the market, said the plan will be carried out in three stages over 10 years.

Firth said the first phase will upgrade some of the basics, such as improving drainage, building permanent washrooms and improving the bumpy gravel pathways.

In an effort to harvest fundraising bucks to finance the upgrades, the market will host Farmers' Feast on Sept. 6. The event will kick off a series of fundraising initiatives that will take place throughout the redevelopment.

Farmers' Feast is a harvest festival featuring foods from Manitoba's chefs, brewers, farmers and food artisans as well as live entertainment from acts such as Marco Castillo.

Proceeds from the event will also go toward Food Matters, Manitoba's locavore (eaters of primarily locally grown food) Iron Chef competition for high school and college student chefs. "This event seemed like a good opportunity to let people know where we're heading while celebrating local foods and chefs. It's always a fun event," said Firth.

Wenkai Liu is a Manitoba farmer who has been selling his vegetables through the St. Norbert Farmers' Market for 15 years. His company, Wenkai Oriental Vegetables, also sells to chains such as the Real Canadian Superstore. But Wenkai said he continues to sell through the market because he likes meeting his customers.

"Everyone's so friendly there. We have the best customers. We don't sell as many vegetables as at big stores, but it's worth selling in the market to talk with them," Wenkai said, adding he is excited about the upgrades and thinks they will help draw more customers to the market. "I'm going to be happy to see the changes and to sell more vegetables."

The market is working on the site's development in partnership with the Saint Norbert Foundation, the organization that owns the site. The market helps to pay property taxes on the land in exchange for its use.

Firth said the market will also seek funding from all levels of government as well as private funders.

"This first event is just a small kickoff event just to get us rolling, and then certainly we will be looking at more fundraising in all kinds of avenues as we progress," Firth said.

katherine.dow@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 23, 2012 B1

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Updated on Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 10:21 AM CDT: Corrects description of fruit in photo caption.

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