QB’s Farmers Market going wild

The Qualicum Beach Farmers Market is showing a little more life these days. Judging by last Saturday’s experience, some might even say it’s running wild. Delightfully so.

Moms and toddlers taking in the fresh air at the Qualicum Beach Farmers Market. March 2021

The market was flooded with young children despite the still chilly weather — moms and tots enjoying a picnic, a little girl of five shooting “hoops” into a bowl held by her dad as they waited for the next customer to approach their stall, and curious youngsters exploring what the various market stalls have to offer.

The return of the accomplished guitarist Brad Prevedoros to the QB Farmers Market brought a welcome touch of normalcy, filling the air with sweet sounds. What a treat to hear live music again, and of this calibre. Born and raised in BC, Brad has been performing professionally in North America and Europe since 1982, both as a solo performer and with various groups.

What really caught our eye on a recent visit to the QB Farmers Market were two new vendors, each celebrating the “wild” in their own sustainable ways — wild seafood and wild pressed flowers.

Local, sustainable wild seafood

Looking for local, sustainable and healthy food harvested in a responsible manner? Look no further than Nanoose based, family-owned Natural Gift Seafoods, operated by Ian, Kingsley, and Alistair Bryce. Plying the cold waters of our coast from Oregon to Haida Gwaii in their fishing vessel, the NERKA #1, the family operation harvests, processes and sells premium hook-and-line troll-caught wild, sustainable seafood.

“Albacore Tuna and Lingcod from our fisheries have been recognized as ‘Sustainable’ by the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise and ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Programs,” says Ian Bryce.

The family has been involved in the local fishing industry for 50 years. “About 10 years ago, we realized that little or no North Pacific Albacore Tuna was available locally, so we began to develop the products” on offer at the QB Farmers Market. Natural Gift Seafoods develops, processes, and sells their seafood products year round .

A strong proponent of environmental responsibility, the company contributes a portion of all sales to the Nature Trust of BC. Their delight in and respect for nature is evident in their video of dolphins playing along the prow of the NERKA #1 in the northeast Pacific Ocean.

Wild pressed flowers

Now, from 50 years in the family fishing business to a plunge into a completely new universe. The coronavirus shut the international conference business down completely last spring and put Kelly Pitt’s job as a conference organizer on ice until further notice. “Not one to sit around,” says Kelly, and having recently moved to the area, she went for long walks in the spring sunshine, picking a few wild flowers in ditches and pathways as she went along, bringing them home and pressing them in a book. As one does.

And, as one does — if one has the courage, artistic talent and inspiration — she conceived and launched a new business venture, Simply Wild Pressed.

“I needed to keep my creativity going [during the pandemic],” Kelly says. “Creativity keeps you sane.” A graduate of Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Kelly had the artistic talent to take the deceptively simple and ancient art of flower pressing to new levels. Her first step was to ask her father to build a flower press. He’s now built five for her.

Soon her friends were asking if she could make some pressed flower prints for them, and Kelly wondered if this might be a way for her to stay engaged during her pandemic hiatus. “I spent months on the computer learning about the craft of flower pressing, watching Youtube videos and taking paid courses,” she says. Then she embarked on another learning curve, how to navigate the waters of Etsy, the giant online marketplace for the arts and craft world.

Last Saturday was the first day that Simply Wild Pressed appeared at the Qualicum Beach Market. “I’ve always been a market goer,” says Kelly. “I love them, and seek them out wherever I travel.”

Kelly says her prints contain ethically sourced flowers, some collected from the wild areas along paths and from farms and acreages in the area, and others harvested from her friends’ gardens and her own. Simply Wild Pressed flower prints are also available at Etsy, on Instagram @simplywildpressed and on Facebook.