Culinary News

The Best Signs of Spring! Farmers’ Markets

Bryan Lavery
Written by Bryan Lavery

A Fresh Look at Our Seasonal Farmers’ Markets

 

Farmers’ markets arise out of a community’s need for producers and consumers to be interdependent and in close proximity to each other. Farm fresh produce, artisanal products and a sense of community are the big draws of farmers’ markets.

Many comparative studies have been made of the social and physical environment of supermarkets and farmers’ markets. A new economic reality is that farmers’ markets have become the preferred food-retailing operation for consumers. Farmers’ markets are confirmed to be friendlier, happier, interactive, personal, and more educational about food provenance than supermarkets. Interestingly, more than three-quarters of supermarket customers arrived alone, while at the farmers’ markets, more than three-quarters of market-goers arrived in the company of others.

Farmers’ markets have become an integral and important aspect of local food distribution and help strengthen food systems and practices. Farmers’ markets support the health and well-being of communities as well as connecting to the economical, ethical and social systems of a community. In many locales farmers’ markets have started to collaborate by establishing synergy, sharing operational knowledge, best practices, vendors and community initiatives.

Seasonal Farmers’ Markets

The eat and buy local movements have taken Ontario by storm, and there are hundreds of farmers’ markets dotted across the province to prove it. Farmers’ markets allow you to meet the growers and taste the best locally sourced produce and artisanal products: hand-crafted bread, honey, cheese, jam, butter, cider and maple syrup. It is a great way to savour the terroir and talents of a community. Here are some of this area’s best-loved seasonal farmers’ markets:

The Covent Garden Market Farmers’ Market offers seasonal, fresh, friendly and local food to you twice a week outside on the tented square from May 4th. Share the passion for locally-grown food from local farmers, growers and producers. The vendors selling at the Farmers’ Market are involved in producing what they are selling, and are happy to answer any of your questions. For current news, recipes and seasonal information about the farmers’ market please go to their blog: www.coventgardenfarmersmarket.com Thursday & Saturdays, 8 am to 1 pm, May to Christmas, weather permitting.

Masonville Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market has evolved into a best-in-class, treasure trove of over 40 local farmers, artisans and food producers. It is organized by the Western Fair Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market. You can be sure to find high-quality seasonal ingredients and products. Located in North London at the southwest corner of Fanshawe Park Road and Richmond Street, next to Hakim’s Optical, there is plenty of free parking in the Masonville Place Mall lot. Fridays 8 am to 2 pm, May 11- October. Weather permitting.

Since its inception, Slow Food Perth County 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 exceptional and produce and artisanal products offered by local vendors who have a passion for their offerings. Stratford Market Square, then the market returns to The Local Community Food Centre for the winter. Sundays 10 am to 2 pm. May 5th to October 13th.

Horton Farmers’ Market is a best-in-class market destination that promotes civic pride, shapes local culture and supports the regional economy by providing access to high quality food producers, craftspeople and artisans. If you are looking for farm fresh produce and meats, homemade preserves and baking, as well as handmade crafts and artwork, the Horton Farmers’ Market is the place to be! They strive to have only local producers and craftspeople represented, giving you a taste and experience unique to St. Thomas. Manitoba Street, ½ block north of Talbot Street. St. Thomas, Saturdays. May 11th to November 2013. www.hortonfarmersmarket.ca

Downtown Woodstock Farmers’ Market is a vibrant outdoor local market in the heart of downtown Woodstock on Museum/Market 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 16 to October 10th, Thursdays 12 noon to 5 pm (sometimes later). www.downtownwoodstock.ca

Nestled on the West Coast of Ontario, the Grand Bend Farmers’ Market welcomes you to a season of fresh, locally-grown produce. The offerings of the 25-plus producer-based vendor group ranges from organic vegetables, beef and pork producers to flowers, bakers, artisans and more. If the vendors don’t grow it, produce it, make it or bake it, it can’t be found at the market. They try to offer a varied selection of products drawing from the three counties of Huron, Middlesex and Lambton. 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 to 1 pm. www.grandbendfarmersmarket.ca

The Goderich Farmers’ Market on the Courthouse Square is sponsored by the Goderich BIA (Business Improvement Area). The outdoor farmers market offers Ontario grown fruits and vegetables, honey, maple syrup, plants and flowers, some pork products and fish, baked goods, preserves and handmade locally produced crafts. Saturdays, 8 am to 1 pm. Victoria Day to Thanksgiving.

Exeter Farmers’ Market is located on Main Street (Hwy 4) beside the Trivett Memorial Church. Thursdays, 2 pm to 6 pm. Mid-May to late October.

The St. Marys Farmers’ Market is an exclusively producer –based market. The vendors at the market are all local farmers, home bakers and local craftspeople. There will be pancake breakfasts on June 22, July 13, August 10 and September 7 and a “Souper Douper” day on October 19th. Saturdays, 8 am to 12 pm. May 18th to October 26th, with some vendors staying into November.

Sarnia Sunday Farmers’ Market at Sarnia Bay Marina is a fresh experience! Buy from the producers, farmers, fishers, chefs and more who offer the best in local food. Available products: vegetables, fresh herbs, meats, flowers, fruit, honey, fish, baking, jams/jellies, gourmet products, locally roasted coffee, artisan crafts, and more. 97 Seaway Rd., Sarnia. Late May to late September Sundays 9 am to 1 pm.

Farmers’ markets have become a favourite pastime in Ontario’s Southwest. Petrolia also has an open-air market on Saturdays from the end of May to Thanksgiving. The Forest Farm and Artisan Market features local producers and artisans’ showing home-grown local produce and products on Fridays from 8 am to 1 pm. May to October

Several new farmers’ markets have been proposed or are in the works for our area. It’s too early for announcements; however, we’ll do our utmost to keep you posted.

London Food Bank & Farmers’ Market “Buy Local, Share Local” Initiative

Last year the London Food Bank established enhanced relationships with the Covent Garden Market Farmers’ Market, Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market, and the Masonville Farmers’ Market. “The support of the vendors and patrons has been extraordinary,” says Josh Chadwick, the London Food Bank’s Community Harvest co-ordinator. “The market initiatives have been successful beyond all expectations. The goal is for shoppers to buy a little extra from a vendor and to then donate the extra to the Food Bank; further any cash donations received at the food bank market booth are used to purchase produce from the vendors at that market.”

In the first year the Community Harvest program, which only worked with growers on the farm, received approximately 52,000 pounds of donated fruit and vegetables. In 2011 this number increased to 92,000. 2012 was the third year for the fresh food program at the London Food Bank. To enhance such efforts, a new exercise called Buy Local, Share Local encourages market patrons to purchase extra fruit and vegetables from market vendors and drop their donations in the booths located in the markets.

The Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market and Masonville Market resulted in 10,823 pounds of food collected (9% of total program).  This is the single largest non-farm donation. Combined, the Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market and Masonville Market provided fresh food to approximately 2,060 families.

Donations from all three markets, in addition to increased support by participating growers ,allowed the total weight of donated fresh fruit and vegetables to exceed 125,000 pounds in 2012.

 

Bryan Lavery is eatdrink magazine’s Writer at Large and Contributing Editor. Lavery is a long-time proponent of farmers’ markets and General Manager of Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market. He can be reached at bryan@eatdrink.ca

 

About the author

Bryan Lavery

Bryan Lavery

Eatdrink Food Editor and Writer at Large Bryan Lavery brings years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry, as a chef, restaurant owner and consultant. Always on the lookout for the stories that Eatdrink should be telling, he helps shape the magazine both under his byline and behind the scenes.