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Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market Association to declare bankruptcy, dissolve

The downtown farmers' market moved from its seasonally-operated 104th Street location to the current indoor year-around building on 97th Street and 103rd Avenue in 2019. (Isaiah Rust/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The downtown farmers' market moved from its seasonally-operated 104th Street location to the current indoor year-around building on 97th Street and 103rd Avenue in 2019. (Isaiah Rust/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market Association will declare bankruptcy and dissolve, following a vote Saturday morning.

The decision comes a week after the association announced the farmers market would be moving from its historical building, located on 97th Street and 103rd Avenue, amid financial woes.

"It has been a long journey of painful financial issues and wondering if we should continue," said Elaine Doucette, market manager of the Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market.

"There's no blame game. It's just the times and there have been so many things that led to this decision."

The farmers market, which was an outdoor seasonal market, moved indoors in 2019, leasing a 113-year-old building downtown.

But higher utility costs — especially during wintertime — and consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic and safety concerns in downtown, such as fewer vendors and less foot traffic, resulted in dire financial straits.

The association posted a letter on social media last week, stating it and the City of Edmonton — the building's landlord — agreed that the association would not renew its lease when it expires in April.

The organization was also looking at various legal and accounting options, including bankruptcy, the letter said.

This weekend is the final farmers market indoors — and the association will seize to exist as is.

"We were really sad to hear the downtown farmers market closing its doors," Puneeta McBryan, CEO of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association, told CBC News earlier this week. "'Heartbroken,' actually, is a word that we used in our official statement.

"The downtown farmers market is just such an institution — for lack of a better word — to downtown. It has been such a community hub, it has been a place where so many residents get their groceries... and we were really, really excited to welcome them back to 104th Street for the summer season."

The farmers market is planning to host an outdoor market on 104th Street this spring, Doucette said.
The farmers market is planning to host an outdoor market on 104th Street this spring, Doucette said.

The farmers market is planning to host an outdoor market on 104th Street this spring, said Elaine Doucette, the market manager for the Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market Association. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The business association has acted more as a partner when the farmers market association was functioning well, McBryan said, but now it may play a role in ensuring Edmonton still has a farmers market downtown.

Despite the dissolution, Doucette and McBryan seem hopeful about the future.

The farmers market community has been reaching out trying to help vendors and negotiations are underway to find a new indoor space, Doucette said.

Meanwhile, McBryan is optimistic that the return of an outdoor market could revitalize the downtown. When the market moved indoors, it became less of a hub, leaving a void downtown, she said.

The weekend market will likely have to declare bankruptcy, and the last day for patrons to attend could be Jan. 28.
The weekend market will likely have to declare bankruptcy, and the last day for patrons to attend could be Jan. 28.

Negotiations are underway to find a new indoor space for the markets vendors, said Doucette. (Isaiah Rust/Radio-Canada)

"We've been feeling that for years," McBryan said, adding that the organization has tried filling the gap where it can, such as the Alfresco on 104th event.

"We can find a new way forward to make sure that all of that vibrancy comes back in some way."

The final indoor market will be Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The farmers market is planning to host an outdoor market on 104th Street this spring, during the May long weekend, Doucette said.