Morinville Farmers’ Market changes hands to grow with community

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From left: Friends of the Morinville Public Library President April Heppleston, Farmers’ Market Manager Korien Sampson, and Morinville Festival Society Chair Paul Smith cross the road in front of St. Jean Baptiste Church Monday afternoon, a ceremonial walk to mark the passing of the Farmers’ Market from one group to the other. – Submitted Photo

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Morinville – When tables at the Morinville Farmers’ Market get loaded with locally produced produce and products this summer it will be a different group managing the operation behind the scenes. The Friends of the Morinville Public Library voted Mar. 7 in favour of handing the weekly market over to the Morinville Festival Society to allow the market to continue the growth it has experienced over the past few years.

After running the market for several years on a smaller scale, the Friends contracted the services of Korien Sampson in 2011 to serve as their market manager. Through Sampson’s vision and the Friend’s support, the market has doubled the number of vendors and expanded its offerings to include a street performers’ festival, an annual chili competition, and additional markets outside the normal market season.

Morinville Festival Society Chair Paul Smith is thankful for the efforts of the Friends in building the market for the community over the past two years, and is pleased to have earned the confidence to carry the market torch forward.

“The Friends of the Library were victims of their own success,” Smith said. “They did so well with growing the market that it outgrew what a small group could reasonably carry. They realized that if the market was to continue to be successful it would need to continue to grow, and that would require more hands to help it expand. We’re extremely grateful to have been accepted to continue the excellent work they began to benefit the community as a whole and the library in particular. This will allow their group to begin some of the exciting fundraising activities they have been wanting to do.”

Friends President April Heppleston is also pleased with the arrangement. “I definitely feel it is a good thing,” she said of passing the market to the larger group. “In the past two years our market manager, Korien Sampson, has managed to take a very small market that was struggling and grow it into a very large and successful market that is a provincial award-winning market. Because of that is has become something that is really better in the hands of the Morinville Festival Society. It is very much a community event now – and very much a community development project, which then takes it out of the realm of the Friends of the Morinville Public Library. We are a fundraising group.”

Split revenues

The agreement signed between the two groups rewards the Friends of the Morinville Public Library for the hard work they initiated and maintained in growing the market. The festival society has agreed to provide the Friends of the Morinville Public Library with 50 per cent of the net profits for the next five seasons, and provide them with 20 per cent of net revenues for seasons six through 10.

The festival group will run the weekly market from June to October as has been the case in the past and will add additional markets throughout the year during Morinville Festival Society events. Korien Sampson will continue to serve as contracted market manager and is already looking to expand the market with additional vendors and events this market season.

“This is now my third year as market manager and I am excited for this year’s Farmers’ Market season,” Sampson said, adding the market is planning to move to the arena this summer and will change its hours to noon until 6 p.m. to allow people to hit the market after work as well as over the lunch hour. Sampson said the Street Performers Festival and award-winning Chili Cook-Off will both return and be joined by as an as-yet unannounced special kick-off event.

Morinville Public Library Board Chair Stephen Dafoe said he sees the arrangement as a win-win situation for both groups. “Community building is all about knowing when to step up and knowing when to step back,” Dafoe said. “The Friends stepped up years ago when they realized the community needed a farmers’ market, and now they’ve stepped back when they realized it was time for their child to leave the nest.
“Our board is extremely grateful for the work the Friends do for our community library. When children pack the library’s program room on a Friday afternoon to watch a movie, it is viewed on equipment the Friends bought the library. And that is just the beginning. So much of what is out front would not be possible without them behind the scenes.”

The Morinville Farmers’ Market will hold its first session Friday June 7.

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