Reviewing Edmonton’s small markets and vendors

The Edmonton Food Council recently delivered a presentation to Edmonton city council in response to a report by city administration that reviewed the regulatory framework for small markets and vendors. This includes farmers’ markets, public markets and their vendors.

The Food Council supports this review as food is intrinsic to these markets and right now there are a number regulatory barriers impeding the development and growth of small food-based businesses in the city. The reason for the presentation was to reaffirm the Food Council’s position on the matter and ensure that city administration will continue to consult with us throughout the review process. It was also to remind everyone that this review falls within the scope of breathe, Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy. (And, therefore, it falls within the Food Council’s scope, since the council was created to help implement fresh.)

The full text of the presentation is included below. This is also an update on the Edmonton Food Council’s recent work on this particular issue.

There was also a recent article in Metro on this review, which includes an interview with Edmonton Food Council co-chair Kirsta Franke – click here to read.

If you’d like to read the city’s report and related documents, click here.


Good morning, my name is Mel Priestley and I’m a member of the Edmonton Food Council. My reason for speaking today is to remind the city council, city administration and the public that the Edmonton Food Council exists as a resource that can and should be accessed in all matters related to food – and this review of the regulatory framework for small markets and vendors certainly qualifies as such.

The Edmonton Food Council is a volunteer committee of city administration. We are comprised of 15 volunteers with diverse food-related backgrounds. The Council’s primary role is to advise on matters of food and urban agriculture and to take an active role in supporting the implementation of fresh: Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy.

Given the centrality of food at small markets – indeed, it’s often their primary focus – it’s a significant oversight that this report makes no mention of fresh. The report does mention that it supports The Way We Grow, Edmonton’s Municipal Development Plan, and The Way We Prosper, Edmonton’s Development Plan. The Edmonton Food Council would like to add that this report also supports some of the strategic directions in fresh, including:

  • Number 4: “develop local food infrastructure capacity”
  • Number 5: “grow local food supply and demand”
  • And especially number 6: “enliven the public realm through a diversity of food activities”

The Edmonton Food Council agrees with this review and urges the city to continuously reach out to the Edmonton Food Council throughout this process. As the report mentions, administration met with the Food Council in March about this issue. This meeting prompted the Food Council to establish a working group on this issue. Since then we’ve also met with Yasmeen Jaafar, a Sustainability Scholar and graduate student from the University of Alberta’s Office of Sustainability. Yasmeen is conducting research on edible placemaking that will include reviewing Edmonton’s public vending frameworks, how they compares to other cities across Canada, with some recommended action items. She will be presenting this report to the City in August. Based on her preliminary research, the Food Council provided Yasmeen with some additional insight and feedback for her future work on the subject.

According to a report released in May by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Albertans spent over $1.5 billion on local food in 2016, up almost 25% from 2012. This included money spent on food at roadside stands, restaurants serving Alberta-produced food, and especially farmers’ markets. Farmers’ markets accounted for a major share of this total: in 2016 the estimated value of purchases was $763 million, more than triple the amount spent 12 years prior in 2004.

Small markets and their vendors may seem like small contributors to the local food economy on an individual basis, but these numbers clearly show that as a collective, they represent very big business. That business continues to grow, and the onus is on the city of Edmonton to ensure that the regulatory framework governing these markets and vendors does not impede their ability to operate, or prevent new markets and vendors from starting up.

To conclude, I’d like to reiterate that the Edmonton Food Council requests an ongoing place at the table during this review process. It was great that administration took the time to have that first meeting with us, but that’s only the beginning of what is sure to be a long process. The Food Council exists to provide ongoing support and consultation – not just a one-time check-in. We ask that city administration continue to consider and consult with us during these proceedings, so that we can continue our work acting as a bridge connecting Edmonton’s food system and ensuring the continued implementation of fresh.


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