BIPOC Farmers’ Initiative aiming to diversify Ottawa’s market space one year after launch

By Perushka Gopalkista

It's been one year since the Ottawa Markets launched the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) Farmers' Initiative (BFI), which aims to welcome more vendors from different backgrounds into one market area. 

The market's manager, Melanie Anderson, tells CityNews Ottawa the current state of the initiative one year later. 

“This year, we have nine farmers in the program participating, so it's still going along,” she says, adding that she's been able to coordinate with other vendors and markets in figuring out how to further diversify the space.

Anderson says the goal is to create ways to accommodate people of colour in the community who may want to be a part of the Ottawa Markets. 

“I've also had a lot of conversations from people who maybe don't meet that condition as a BIPOC farmer, but maybe a person of colour who are looking to access the market as a food maker or an artisan and they're also looking for support,” she says. “So, there's definitely a lot more people that could benefit if we could find additional funding or support them.” 

Nearly 90 per cent of the vendors that participated last year rejoined this year, which Anderson says is a good thing. 

Anderson says conversations are being had about creating more inclusive markets in Ottawa. The BIPOC Farmers' Initiative was launched in the 2021 when the Ottawa Markets team recognized the barriers that vendors or farmers of colour were facing. The markets, adds Anderson, are trying to eliminate those barriers by being an exclusive environment. 

The initiative was launched to ensure that any vendor or farmer felt welcome in Ottawa. 

“What was important was  to look at how we can attract a different type of vendor that maybe is out there and is trying to get into the market,” she says, adding that those who coming to the markets is also something the team was looking at when creating the initiative.  

“So, bringing in BIPOC farmers and BIPOC vendors only helps enrich that culture of customers that also going to access the markets in the future,” 

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