Farmers’ markets are a long-standing tradition in Ontario. The term farmers’ market, however, is used broadly to describe a variety of operations that sometimes offer more diverse products than a strictly defined producer-only farmers’ market.
Sometimes shopping at a farmers’ market is a way of supporting local farmers, so long as you employ a liberal definition of the term local. Other times there are strict guidelines in place that ensure that a producer-only market consists principally of farmers selling directly to the public goods that their farms have produced.
There are differing ideas as to what constitutes a farmers’ market. In some cases the definition is also a municipal issue. In London Ontario, the Middlesex Health Unit defines a farmers’ markets exemption from the Food Premises Regulation when the majority (51% or greater) of vendors retailing at the market are producers of farm products who are primarily selling their own products.
In Ontario a province-wide producer-only farmers’ market authority makes decisions about what is and what isn’t a “certified” farmers’ market. Farmers’ Markets Ontario (FMO) is the association representing the province’s farmers’ markets that meet and maintain stringent standards. The organization is focused on assisting the development of community-based farmers-only farmers’ markets. If you are an entrepreneur in a position to operate a privately-owned or hybrid market, FMO curiously does not offer support.
Farmers’ markets, as defined by the FMO, are seasonal, multi-vendor, community-driven (not private) organizations selling agricultural food, art and craft products including home-grown produce, home-made crafts and value-added products where the majority of vendors are primary producers. Farmers’ Market Ontario lists 175 markets and counting. There continues to be an increase in the amount of farmers’, community, municipal and privatized markets across the province, and the number is now estimated to be in excess of 350. Here is a brief listing of some of the area’s best-loved seasonal farmers’ markets.
On Thursday and Saturdays the Covent Garden Market has an outdoor farmers’ market which offers fresh, local food on the Market Square from May to December. The vendors “grow it, raise it, bake it, or make it.”Open Thursdays 8 am–2 pm and Saturdays 8 am–1 pm. For current news, recipes and seasonal information sign up for the weekly newsletter at www.coventmarket.com
The popular outdoor Goderich Farmers’ Market in Courthouse Square is sponsored and operated by the Goderich BIA. Vendors offer fruits and vegetables, honey, maple syrup, plants and flowers, locally-reared pork products, fish, baked goods, preserves and handmade crafts. Open Victoria Day to Thanksgiving, Saturdays 8 am–1 pm. www.goderichbia.ca/farmers-market/
Nestled on Ontario’s West Coast, the Grand Bend Farmers’ Market welcomes you to a season of locally-grown produce. The offerings of the 25-plus producer-based vendors range from organic vegetables, local beef and pork producers to bakers, artisans and a “couple of characters.” If the vendors don’t grow it, produce it, make it or bake it, it can’t be found at the market. They offer a varied selection of products from Huron, Middlesex and Lambton counties. 1 Main St., Grand Bend (Colonial Hotel Parking Lot – enter off Hwy 21.) Opens the first Wednesday after Victoria Day and closes the last Wednesday before Thanksgiving. 8 am–1 pm. www.grandbendfarmersmarket.ca
Masonville Farmers’ Market has evolved into a local community hub with over 40 farmers, artisans and food producers. Located in north London outside of Masonville Place at 1680 Richmond Street North, there is plenty of free parking. Organized by the Farmers’& Artisans’ Market at the Western Fair, you can be sure to find interesting food artisans and quality purveyors providing seasonal items. Open every Friday 8 am– 2 pm, weather permitting, from May to October.
Since its inception, Slow Food Perth County’s Sunday Market has been a hit and a go-to food destination. Market-goers appreciate the good, clean, fair principles of Slow Food as well as the local vendors who have a passion for their high
quality offerings. In season it can be found at Stratford Market Square, then the market returns to The Falstaff Family Centre. The market remains outdoors right through the planting, growing, and harvest seasons, until mid-October, Sundays 10 am–2 pm.
The Soho Street Market provides local residents and visitors with an open-air market experience where they can purchase a variety of fresh produce, locally foraged goods, artisan baking, and prepared foods straight from the producers. Tuesday night from 4-8 pm, at the Victoria Tavern, 466 South St., London. www.sohomarket.ca
The St. Marys Farmers’ Market continues its proud tradition of offering a wide range of fresh and locally produced foods. The vendors at the market are all local farmers, home bakers and local craftspeople. The Market also offers special annual events such as Strawberry Shortcake Day, Pancake Breakfast, Apple Pie Contest and two “Souper-Douper Saturdays.” May 21–October 29th, Saturdays 8 am–12 noon. www.stmarysfarmersmarket.ca
Horton Farmers’ Market in St. Thomas is a “best-in-class market” that promotes civic pride, shapes local culture and supports the regional economy by providing access to high-quality food producers, craftspeople and artisans. Organizers strive to have only local producers and craftspeople represented, giving you a taste and experience unique to St. Thomas. Manitoba Street, one-half block north of Talbot Street. St. Thomas, May to October 29th, Saturdays 8 am–12 noon. www.hortonfarmersmarket.ca
Strathroy Farmers’ Market is one of the area’s oldest open air farmers’ markets and has operated since 1861. The bustling market has moved from Market Square behind the Town Hall to Front Street between Caradoc Street and Frank Street. Saturdays from June to October, Saturdays 8 am–12 noon. Member of Farmers’ Market Ontario.
Downtown Woodstock Farmers’ Market is a vibrant outdoor local market on Museum Square. The market features fresh, seasonal produce, eggs, meat, dairy, baked goods, flowers, plants, artisans, crafts and more. Museum Square and Dundas St., Woodstock, May to October, Thursdays 12 noon–5 pm. www.downtownwoodstock.ca
Point Edward Moonlight Farmers’ Market is a producer-based farmers’ market featuring the very best in local food, including meats, produce, baking, maple syrup, herbs, and a variety of specialty foods. The vendor mix continues to evolve, so shop the market every week. It offers live music, demos and much more as the season progresses. Located on the service road in Waterfront Park in the Village of Point Edward, parallel to Michigan Avenue and spanning the distance from the pavilion on Livingston Ave to the parking lot by the water. You’ll find it right under the beautiful Bluewater Bridge. Open Thursdays, 4 pm–8 pm, May 26–October 6th.
Bryan Lavery is eatdrink’s Food Editor and Writer at Large, and a farmers’ market consultant.