A weekly and/or seasonal Athabasca and area Farmers Market was researched in January 1978 and this included a local survey of interest and attendance at an Alberta Agriculture Farmers’ Market seminar in Edmonton. The first Farmers Market was organized by volunteers just prior to Christmas, 1978 and was held in the basement of the Athabasca Community Centre. It may also have been held at the Athabasca Arena at various times during the day on Fridays. It was sponsored by the Athabasca Agricultural Society and one of the early managers was Theresa Keith. Early promotional efforts included cake decorating contests, door prizes and the mention of new visitors in a regular column published the Athabasca Advocate newspaper. Early members include Staffie Rypien, Grace Stychin, Mildred Haggith, Shirley Berezowski, Lilo Sanftl, Pennie Hunter, Otto Christensen, Lorraine Schultz, Joy Richards, Pat Williamson, Dorothy McCue, Maria Muller, Maureen Weymouth, Gwen Wolstenholme, Loreen Dagley, Liz Lamoureux, Mary Bart, Mary Schmidt, Mr. and Mrs. Stellmaker, and a BC fruit producer from Westlock. Annual membership was $10.00. Board positions were president, vice president, secretary and treasurer. All vendors set their own prices and a percentage of sales was given to the Market. Items for sale included fresh baking, farm fresh eggs, hand-made clothing, frozen foods, household items, seasonal bedding plants and crafts.
In 1984, the Farmers Market moved to a retail location on the main floor of Dr. Wright’s building at 4902 – 49 Street, Athabasca and was open six days a week from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. The store was staffed by volunteers. The store location closed on December 19, 2001 due to a number of factors including volunteer burn out and changes in health regulations which made it more difficult to operate in the same way; specifically, food items that were baked in home kitchens and not on site. The Farmers Market Board donated the remaining $4,000.00 in their bank account to the Athabasca Health Care Centre Ladies Auxiliary.
The Athabasca Farmers Market has always operated with the designation of “Alberta Approved Farmers Market.” This means that 80% of good sold are produced in Alberta. It was billed as the only full-time, year-round farmers’ market in Alberta during the years it was located in Dr. Wright’s building.
There was no Farmers Market in Athabasca between the years 2001 and 2004. It was then brought back under the sponsorship of the Athabasca District Chamber of Commerce and again held weekly/seasonally in the basement of the Community Centre. Due to scheduling difficulties at the Community Centre, the Farmers Market was moved to the basement of the Royal Canadian Legion #103 in 2006.
In 2011, a new organization, the North Country Community Council, sponsored the Farmers Market and it is now held every second Saturday from October to May at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex. During the spring and summer months, it is held weekly on the Athabasca riverfront. The Town of Athabasca donated a one-time start up grant of $2,500 in 2012. During the months of January through November, the market has between 25 – 30 tables and peaks with as many as 65 tables in the month before Christmas. The Farmers Market executive has made donations to the Good Samaritan Food Bank and the Athabasca Santas Anonymous annual campaign.