It has been said “You go to Stratford for the culture and to St. Marys for the scenery.” But St. Marys is more than just postcard-perfect prospects. For over twenty years the local Farmers’ Market has enriched the surrounding community with an abundance of healthy, hearty, home-grown and home-made delights.
Tucked away in the Jones Street parking lot at the corner of Water Street South and Jones Street East, this open-air, producer-only market meets its mandate of encouraging visitors to ‘Eat Fresh, Eat Local.’ On any given Saturday between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. locavores can find something fresh to suit their taste. Booths offer everything from fresh produce to home baked goods to hard-to-find meats like elk, buffalo, rabbit and Highland beef, as well as local crafts.
While the number of vendors and the variety of their offerings fluctuate throughout the growing season, some regular sellers are available until the season closes on October 26.
McCully’s Hill Farm offerings include preserves, fresh meats and pies – but according to owner Rika Aarts, the crowd favourite has consistently been their succulent corn, which arrives in July and is quickly snapped up.
Sheldon Berries has participated for 19 of the market’s 21 years of operation. The 50-acre farm produces blueberries, summer and fall raspberries, beans, peas, melons, peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, various squash, gourds and pumpkins.
Early in the season, you can enjoy fresh picked rhubarb as well as frozen and preserved berries. Mid-June is the time to visit if you’re in the market for fresh strawberries.
For a taste of something different, Ann Slater is well known for unique and high-quality produce. Her one and a half acre intensive market garden farm produces lettuce, salad greens, heritage tomatoes, unusual potatoes, onions, beets, summer and winter squash, kale and Swiss chard.
Visitors can take comfort in the ethical standards of producers at this market as well. Barrking Hill Farm, for instance, (Highland beef, Tamworth pork, chicken, rabbit and eggs) raises their animals in a humane, stress-free environment, using natural feeds that don’t include hormones or antibiotics.
Breadtopia, a family-run micro-bakery specializing in handcrafted hearth breads and pastries, and The Nutty Bakers a mother-daughter team who have been offering wholesome quality baked goods since ’97), round off the market with comfort foods, sourced from local ingredients whenever possible.
Whether you’re in the St. Marys area on a golf adventure, en route to the theatre in Stratford, or simply looking for a day trip to a beautiful and historic small town, be sure to swing by the St. Marys Farmers’ Market. Check the schedule at http://www.stmarysfarmersmarket.ca/ to see what’s in season. The market also offers occasional pancake breakfasts, which is great motivation to get out early.
TANYA CHOPP is London-based marketing communications specialist and freelance writer whose work is focused on the promotion of health, wellness and support of the arts. She cooks with wine, and sometimes she even adds it to the food.