This summer has been a busy time of year for Jutta Schoenhardt.
The Vanderhoof Farmers’ Market manager is currently travelling to markets across northern B.C. as part of her first year as regional coordinator for the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM) nutrition coupon program.
On Saturday, August 21, she could be found in Quesnel.
“It is amazing,” Schoenhardt said of the program supported by the provincial government, Northern Health and community partners such as NeighbourLink in Vanderhoof.
“It brings more people to the market, the vendors sell more stuff and people, of course, get healthy food.”
Thousands of dollars in coupons across the region have been distributed to young families, pregnant people, seniors and those with a low income.
Once signed up, they can access $21 in weekly coupons for fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, and even some meat.
At the Quesnel Farmers’ Market, Schoenhardt recalled seeing a woman use her coupons to purchase a large bag of peppers.
She had later learned the single parent had gone through a difficult divorce and had learned how to make the coupons last by making sauces and more that could last throughout the winter.
“It gave her a purpose and self-confidence, and she said if it wasn’t for the program, she would not have come out of her funk. That’s really nice to hear,” Schoenhardt said.
Schoenhardt continued her weekend trip with a visit to the McLeese Lake Farmers’ Market on Sunday, August 22.
She has also visited markets in Houston, Smithers, Burns Lake, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Chetwynd and Prince George.
Terrace, Hazelton and Haida Gwaii have yet to be checked off.
In Vanderhoof, where the last evening market of the season was held Monday evening, August 23 at Ferland Park, Schoenhardt credited their prime location, amazing vendors and supportive community as what has led to the market growing each year.
She and her husband, a dental technician, had immigrated to Canada from Germany with their four-year-old and nine-month-old sons in 1990.
It was their honeymoon seven years earlier in 1983 when they had found a deep fondness for the new country Schoenhardt described as free, open and beautiful.
“We both cried when we had to leave….,” she said, noting it had taken them seven years to decide to return as new Canadian citizens.
They had lived in Edmonton, Alta. for six years before purchasing the Tachick Lake Resort in Vanderhoof in 1996.
After operating the resort for 11-years, they moved to their five-acre property on Derksen Road.
Before agreeing to oversee the Vanderhoof Farmers’ Market three years ago, Schoenhardt participated as a vendor and would regularly sell her reusable beeswax food wraps made of colorful fabric and beeswax purchased from her friend Ingrid Kutzner.
She is also involved with the Nechako Arts Council and Circle of Hearts Society for Women, and in her spare time enjoys snowshoeing, cross country skiing, biking and sewing.
“You have to be involved to be a part of the community—that’s just how it is and if nobody does it nothing is happening,” Schoenhardt said, noting her love for Vanderhoof.
“It’s always amazing for me to see how the community comes together if anybody is in need,” she added.
“That’s one thing about Vanderhoof that’s just outstanding and amazing.”