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COPE throws support behind New City Market

*This story was corrected at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 14.

COPE councillor Ellen Woodsworth is suggesting that Vancouver help pay for permanent farmers' market infrastructure with community amenity contributions.

These in-kind or cash contributions are provided by developers when council grants additional rezoning rights, typically higher density, and are often put towards things like cultural or community centres, transportation improvements or neighbourhood houses.

Woodsworth said that food-related infrastructure could be added to that list -- specifically, a proposed project called New City Market.

Incumbent Woodsworth and fellow COPE candidate Brent Granby, who is running for Park Board, held a press conference yesterday at the Main Street Station farmers' market to declare their support for New City Market. The so-called "food hub" would serve as permanent market and storage space for farmers as well as a educational and community outreach centre.

Vancity credit union has given $50,000 to create a business plan for the market. The city has expressed interest in providing land for its development once a business plan and governance structure are established.

"We need a dedicated food hub," said Woodsworth. "This is something we've been talking about for a long time."

In fact, the proposal has been in the early development stage for five years. It was spearheaded in 2006 by a steering committee of local food-focused individuals from the business, non-profit and academic spheres. In March of this year, project coordinator Tara McDonald, who is also executive director of the Vancouver Farmers' Market Society, said a business plan was close to completion. According to Woodsworth, no plan has yet been presented to council.

Woodsworth said $4.1 million dollars were spent at Vancouver farmers' markets in the past year and that a year-round space for vendors would generate even more revenue for local farmers and businesses. Granby said that the food hub would also provide much-needed storage capacity for farmers.

But when asked if she could use the storage space in Vancouver, market vendor Annamarie Klippenstein of Klippers Organic Acres in Cawston said "not really." Their farm has enough storage capacity on site, said Klippenstein, and their goal is to get produce from field to market as quickly as possible anyway.

"That being said, I think it would be the right thing for some. . . I think it could be helpful for younger farmers, or farmers just starting out," said Klippenstein. "I think there are a lot of logistical things to work out."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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