If you want to gauge the true character of a place, head to its farmer’s market.
That’s exactly what I’ve decided to do on a sunny Saturday morning after driving off the Powell River Queen at Quathiaski Cove on Quadra Island. I’m bound for a day of rock climbing with a friend on the sun-warmed bluffs above Morte Lake, but the market, I’ve been told, is an essential stop along the way, so I follow the line of vehicles that crawls uphill toward the island’s busiest centre. I suppose this qualifies as heavy traffic on Quadra, which is one of the larger members of the Discovery Islands archipelago and is a mere 10-minute ferry ride from Campbell River on Vancouver Island.
In no time, I’ve parked my car in the Coastal Community Credit Union lot and am following the scent of fresh sourdough bread—from the bakers at Savoury & Sweet—to the grassy field that is home to the Quadra Island Farmer’s Market & Bazaar. Roadside Rattle, a two-piece band from Comox Valley, is plucking out some sweet country blues, captivating a crowd of happy-looking shoppers who are bobbing their heads to the music, their reusable shopping bags overflowing with local goodness.
Yummy breads by Savoury & Sweet, Quadra Island Farmer’s Market / Credit: Naomi Terry
True to its name, this buzzing marketplace is as much bazaar as it is farmer’s market. Eclectic and appealing options abound, I discover, as I wander from stall to stall. Along with fresh organic produce and flowers from Dirt Co and other local growers, I find artwork, homemade soap, one-of-a-kind jewellery, hand-knitted scarves and plenty of other wares that have emerged from the creative minds and green thumbs of Quadra Island’s inhabitants.
I pick up a loaf of that aromatic, baked-fresh sourdough, then jostle my way into the lineup at L.B. Sweet, Artisan Chocolates and Toffees, one of the market’s most popular vendors. For the market’s regulars, it wouldn’t be a proper Saturday morning on Quadra without some truffles or other sweets created by chocolatier Lisa Bernstein, who most islanders refer to, affectionately, as the Chocolate Lady.
“For me, this market is about connecting with and exchanging stories with visitors from all over the world,” Bernstein tells me. “The market seems to draw everyone.”
Chocolate Truffles from L.B. Sweets / Credit: Naomi Terry
I ogle the delectable display of chocolates, chewy salted caramels and crispy butternut toffees, make my selections, then take a seat on a nearby bale of hay. Popping a truffle into my mouth, I survey the scene. Locals and visitors alike are chatting cheerfully with one another and with the smiling vendors, one of whom is metalworker Kevin Mackenzie of Discovery Metal Creations. Like Bernstein, Mackenzie is a favourite at the market; his creations—such as his smooth, cedar slab tabletop set on faux root legs of hand-forged steel—draw admirers and beguiled shoppers. One of his works on display this morning, a three-dimensional raven, is so lifelike, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were to suddenly take flight into the fresh morning air, which is tinged with the scent of the sea drifting in from Seymour Narrows.
My chocolate break over, I purchase a cup of Barry Huson’s fresh brewed coffee, then stop to see Naomi Terry, owner of Quadra Island Soap. One of the volunteers who manages this grassroots market, Terry originally started coming here 10 years ago to sell hand-knit wool hats alongside her then 10-year-old daughter, who was making and selling her own jewellery. It was a family affair, and when Terry realized Quadra Island didn’t have a local soap maker, she spotted an opportunity and now creates and sells soaps made from beeswax, cocoa butter and castor oil, among other ingredients.
“This is my social time. The market is the thing to do on Saturday morning,” Terry tells me between serving customers.
Naomi Terry, Quadra Island Soap / Credit: Quadra Island Farmer’s Market
Indeed, from May to mid-September, most local lodge and B&B owners direct their weekend guests this way to a get a slice—and taste—of island life. The Quadra Island branch of the Coastal Community Credit Union donates the use of its grassy, tree-enclosed property every Saturday morning and, in exchange, market volunteers maintain the lawn and help with any necessary upgrades.
After meeting several of these volunteers and vendors, it’s clear to me that the Quadra Island Farmer’s Market & Bazaar is about much more than peddling products; it’s a celebration of community. Islander Rod Burns, who offers farm-stays at Bold Point Farms and also sells his wild and farm berry butters at the market, reinforces this fact.
“The passion and creativity that every one of these vendors brings to the market is amazing,” Burns says, sweeping his arm toward his fellow islanders. “And so is the music.”
Roadside Rattle / Credit: Quadra Island Farmer’s Market
Roadside Rattle rattles away on some acoustic blues as I navigate through the crowd with a bag full of chocolate, baking, organic carrots and apples. Back in my car, I ease onto the island’s one main thoroughfare, bound for a day of more adventure. Like every other Saturday morning on Quadra, the fun began at the farmer’s market.
The Quadra Island Farmer’s Market & Bazaar runs every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., May through mid-September. It’s located next to the Credit Union, an easy walking distance from the ferry terminal at Quathiaski Cove.
Beyond the Market
Quadra Island is rife with outdoor adventure opportunities, and Morte Lake is a prime take-off point. From the parking lot, you can hike the Chinese Mountains, rock climb on the granitic south-facing crags that are scattered along the mountains’ slopes (buy a copy of Philip Stone’s guidebook, Quadra Island Rock Climbs) or access an impressive network of single-track mountain bike trails that loop around the island’s rugged interior.
Rock climbing the Chinese Mountains above Hyacinthe Bay and the Salish Sea / Credit: Philip Stone
Getting There with BC Ferries:
CAMPBELL RIVER – QUADRA ISLAND
Crossing time: 10 minutes
To get to Quadra Island, you will need to travel to Campbell River on Vancouver Island. From Victoria, Campbell River is a 4-hour drive on Highway 19 through miles of picturesque coastline and charming towns. Once in Campbell River, choose from up to 17 round-trips daily to Quathiaski Cove on Quadra Island.
For sailing schedules and reservations, visit bcferries.com