Did you know that farmers’ markets are more popular now than they were just a few years ago? Yes, it’s true. Markets are popping up in many communities all across Ontario and beyond.
Why would this be, in this time of super-sized grocery and big box stores? I think it’s because more and more consumers are looking to make the connection to where their food comes from. They’re becoming more informed about their food and why it’s important to buy local. They want an opportunity to eat farm-fresh, locally grown food and to get know those who produced it on a personal level. Farmers’ markets are one of the ways we consumers and eaters are making that connection.
Interestingly, in a National Farmers' Market Impact Study 2009 Report, it was found that “The future for farmers’ markets in Canada is promising with consumer demand and interest closely aligned with support for local production and fresh, healthy food choices... Farmers’ markets are important contributors to the national economy with impacts ranging from $1.55 to $3.09 billion annually.”
Farmers’ markets have been a favourite way of shopping for me for many years. It has just become part of my routine when food shopping for my family. When I think of farmers’ market shopping, I think of a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, knowledgeable farmers/vendors and fresh, top-quality food!
I had a great opportunity recently to sit down and talk with one farmers’ market manager/vendor, Susan Wilding of the Algoma Farmers’ Market, which operates out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. She told me that the Algoma Farmers’ Market has existed since 1901, with the Wilding family involved with the market since the 1920s. Susan says that it’s really a heritage market, where area farm families have been part of the tradition for generations, and that it’s very encouraging to now see many of the younger generation taking an interest and continuing the tradition.
She said the current Algoma Farmers’ Market, as it is now, was really revived in 1988 and hasn’t looked back since. While the market operates year-round, it’s in the spring, summer and fall that it really hums with activity. The market vendors have formed an association and abide by a common philosophy and constitution, whereby everything sold at the Algoma Farmers market is grown, produced, or made in the District of Algoma by primary producers/vendors selling their own products, or those of their neighbours. There are no “re-sellers” at this market.
With 19 to 20 vendors during the busiest season, it’s a small but mighty market. Vendors offer a great deal of variety of food and craft products, including local honey, maple syrup, fruits, vegetables, herbs, smoked fish, preserves, and home baking, as well as unique craft items like handmade soaps and hand weaved rugs. All vendors have been certified by the Algoma Health Unit.
Susan says that one of the great pleasures of selling at a farmers’ market is interacting with the public. It’s an opportunity to give some friendly advice about cooking methods, when produce is in season, and what grows well in the area. Tips like "keeping the earth on potatoes keeps them fresher longer" or that a vegetable does not have to look perfect to be nutritious and tasty. That learning goes both ways; she gets lots of great ideas from her customers. She says that all of her fellow vendors are like family: when one does well at the market, all do well.
When it comes to tourists, the Algoma Farmers’ Market loves to see them. What a perfect location for the market on the waterfront, near the downtown. As a tourist attraction, it’s in an ideal spot for visitors who are walking or biking, taking in the sites and scenery. The market gets a lot of traffic from the cruise ships that stop in along the river during the season, with visitors popping in to pick up a treat to take with them on their journey.
For anyone not familiar with the Algoma Farmers’ Market or any of the several Farmers’ Markets in the region, I would highly recommend checking them out and saying hello to a friendly face! When you’re visiting the area, take in a farmers’ market: they’re not only a great tourist attraction, they’re vital to the community as a whole.
Market Days and Hours
You’ll find the Algoma Farmers’ Market open outdoors at the Roberta Bondar Park Pavilion on Foster Drive, close to the downtown core, on Saturdays from June to Thanksgiving weekend 8 am-1 pm. The market also runs on Wednesday afternoons during the summer from July 5, noon-5pm.
Find out more information about the vendors and the market here:
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