Experience Drayton Valley
Whether looking for fresh produce in-season, or arts, or crafts and gift ideas year round, a visit to the long-running Evergreen Farmers’ Market in Drayton Valley will not disappoint.
The market, which features 60 to 120 vendors depending on the day and time of year, has been running in Drayton Valley locations for more than 40 years, says Colleen Schoeninger, market manager. Drayton Valley is located on Highway 22 about a 1.5-hour drive southwest of Edmonton, or about three hours northwest of Calgary. The Drayton Valley and District Agricultural Society operate the market.
The regular Wednesday market (10:30 am – 1:30 pm) operated out of the Drayton Valley curling rink for many years. Then with the addition of a Saturday market once a month, and the need for more space, the market moved in 2017 to a vacant building known locally as the Wellhouse on Industrial Road.
The Drayton Valley Evergreen Farmers’ Market has been to some extent a victim of its own success, says Schoeninger. “It continues to grow in popularity both from vendors and customers, so we needed a larger, more permanent home,” she says. “For 2018 find us in Mackenzie Centre located at 5737 45 Ave. in the Omniplex.” Saturday markets were held in January and February; the regular Wednesday markets begin March 7. More details can be found on the market website at: dvevergreenfarmersmarket.ca for updates.
Schoeninger estimates the market has 25,000 customer visits each year. Weekly Wednesday markets draw about 500 visitors, while the Saturday market draws from 800 to 1,500 visitors. “In the immediate trading area in and around Drayton Valley we have a population of about 14,000 people,” says Schoeninger. “So the market is well supported by folks in the region.”
The weekly Wednesday market accommodates between 50 and 70 vendors. Along with arts, crafts and homemade food products, which are showcased each week, during the growing season the market also features several vendors with a wide range of fresh produce from local gardens and farms.
“And this area was hit hard with the recent downturn in the economy,” says Schoeninger. “So we also saw a lot of vendors who had been working in the oil patch, turn to other skills such as engraving, welding and wood working, who brought their products to the market. It was an important outlet that helped to supplement income for many families.”
Because so many of our customers requested it, the Evergreen Market launched a monthly Saturday market in 2017. Initially, it was planned to run the last Saturday of the month from 10:30 am to 3 pm from September to April. But with strong support, the Saturday market now operates monthly, on a yearround basis as of January 2018.
Saturdays the market plans for about 100 vendor tables. It has been drawing about 800 visitors, although as many as 1,500 people have attended special market days, such as Canada Day Celebrations on July 1, 2017. And there was very strong support for the ‘Christmas in September’ Markets, which ran both Friday and Saturday in late September.
While most of the fresh produce is available only during the growing season, there is one exception. Doef Greenhouses at Gull Lake, a long time supporter of the Drayton Valley market, supplies a variety of fresh greenhouse products such as peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers year round.
And it’s not just the adults who can find interesting items at the Evergreen Market. They also run a kids summer program that Schoeninger says is not only entertaining, but it is also educational as well.
“We had 100 kids participate in this program last summer,” she says. “And they were involved in projects that included community gardening, berry picking, and jam making. We’ve had a composting day where they learn about composting, and a sewing day — learning to sew. And we also had a salad scavenger hunt, where they had to search through the market for certain types of produce, and then come back to learn how to properly wash vegetables and then turn those into a salad. Certainly these are fun events for the kids, but hopefully they learn something too about where food comes from and how to properly handle and prepare it.”
For more info about the Evergreen Farmers’ Market, follow them on Facebook, or visit dvevergreenfarmersmarket.ca.
By: Lee Hart