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The Top Ten Reasons to Shop at a Farmers’ Market

By on May 20, 2014
Screen shot 2014 04 03 at 10.03.08 PM 300x336 - The Top Ten Reasons to Shop at a Farmers’ Market

Searching for the perfect tomato? Fancy a juice-dripping brandywine, a striped black or green zebra or perhaps a golden lollipop? Maybe what you seek are buckets of romas for a traditional, secret family sauce recipe? Chances are you can find them all at a local, bustling farmers’ market this spring.

1)  Fresh Tastes Best  
The taste of fresh picked from the farm, perfectly ripe fruits and vegetables simply can’t be beat. “The main reasons people shop at farmers’ markets are to access local food; to ensure freshness and to support the local farmer,” says Bob Chorney, the president of  Farmers’ Markets Canada. Canada’s over 600 farmers’ markets offer some of the freshest food around—usually only hours from the field and ripened in it offering top quality, flavourful produce. Enjoy the flavours of the season. As you yearn for strawberries in the spring, savour sweet corn in summer, or bite into an apple in autumn, you reconnect with the seasons and the turning of the year. Some of Chorney’s favourite Canadian picks are: sweetcorn, peaches, strawberries, honey, maple syrup and apples. Not sure which foods are in season currently? Check the Foodland Ontario Availability Guide: www.ontario.ca/foodland/availability-guide.

2)  Support Local Farmers
Often farmers depend on the income from farmers’ markets to get by. In an era when sustainable farmers struggle to survive, farmers’ market profits help keep small farms and organic farms alive. Buyers beware though, not all vendors are local farmers. Some are resellers. Canadian consumers can now know for certain which produce is local with the MyPick® program and logo. Ask vendors if they are a Verified Local Farmer® and look for the MyPick® logo.

3)  Give Your Local Economy a Boost   
When consumers spend more at their local farmers’ market, the communities they live in thrive. While you’re biting into an apple, here’s the numbers crunch. Two years ago Farmers’ Markets Canada engaged a consultant to determine the multiplier effect of farmers’ market sales. The multiplier was determined to be 3.24. “For example, annual sales at Ontario’s 170 farmers’ markets exceed $700 million which means that we have an economic impact of $2.3 billion on the province of Ontario,” says Chorney.  “Nationally, the numbers are 1.25 billion and $4 billion.” Spending at markets stimulates local economies by keeping money circulating in those communities.

4)  Help the Environment  
Eating locally saves packaging waste and energy required to ship food around the globe. The end result, “a significantly reduced carbon footprint,” claims Chorney. Food at a farmers’ market is transported shorter distances and is generally grown using sustainable methods that minimize the impact on the earth. “Farmers are wonderful stewards of our land,” says Chorney.

5)  Improve Your Health     
Shopping at a farmers’ market can ease you towards a more back to basics approach to nutrition, starting with a wide-variety of whole food options. Fresh ingredients inspire cooking at home, batch freezing or preserving over highly processed alternatives. Tempting produce displayed in farmers’ baskets encourages eating more fruits and vegetables, so it’s easier to consume the Canadian Food Guide recommended 7-8 adult servings a day. Local produce is also most likely ripened in the field instead of gassed to simulate ripening and won’t have been sitting for weeks in storage needing extra preservatives. Most food found at a farmers’ market is minimally processed, and many farmers go to great lengths to grow the most nutritious produce possible by using sustainable techniques. Organic options are also in abundance.

6)  Celebrate Community 
Farmers’ markets are often the hub of their community. Festive and lively,  farmers’ markets are social venues where you bump into friends and meet local farmers face to face. “Most farmers’ markets stage a wide variety of events …  from cornfests to applefests to peachfests,” says Chorney. These events become opportunities to share with family and friends. Watch for event listings on the calendar of the Farmers’ Markets Canada website or in your community newspaper: www.farmersmarketscanada.ca.

7)  Variety is the Spice of Life
There is an amazing array of produce: red carrots, a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower, stinging nettles, garlic scapes, maitake mushrooms, and much, much more. Savour biodiversity and find new cooking ideas. Farmers, as well as community and guest chefs at farmers’ markets are happy to share recipes for in-season foods. Watch for free seasonal cooking demonstrations and classes on food preservation and other kitchen skills at a market near you.

8)  Animal Humanity  
At the farmers’ market find meats, cheeses, and eggs from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics, who have grazed on green grass and eaten natural diets.

9)  Support Local Businesses and Artisans
Farmers’ markets are a viable, low cost strategy to launch a product. The venue is low cost and provides a means to introduce new customers to products. The entrepreneurial spirit and creativity expressed by local artisans and crafters add to the ambiance and cultural diversity. Find one of a kind gifts and quality body care products.

10)  Pure Pleasure    
Treat your senses. Stop and say hello to a neighbour while immersed in a rich variety of sights and smells like sky-high cinnamon buns or chunks of mouth-watering cheeses. Try a sample or two while you’re there or taste local cuisine. Experiencing the colors, smells and tastes of a farmers’ market is an experience that connects you to your food, the farmers who grow it and the land. Turn shopping into a pleasure, rather than a chore at this Canadian cultural scene.

Top Farmers’ Markets Not to Miss  
All farmers’ markets have their charms, but these Canadian favourites are road-trip worthy, offer a wide-variety of vendors and a little something special.

1) Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market, Toronto, ON 
This sprawling community environmental centre is home to the largest farmers’ market in Toronto. It’s aim is to equip visitors to live, work and play more sustainably. Expect to find delicious, local, fresh food from a variety of vendors. Some standouts include fresh-made meals from Canadian chef Doug McNish, artisanal chocolate from Chocosol Traders and a variety of organic options. Open:  Saturdays 8am-1pm from May to November. Located at: 550 Bayview Ave. Call: (416) 596-7670.  Visit: http://ebw.evergreen.ca/farmers-market. 

2) Pier Street Market, Campbell River, BC
Buy fresh Pacific albacore tuna and whole wheat crêpes filled with cream cheese and topped with stewed rhubarb. Enjoy Vancouver Island-roasted, fair-trade coffee and walk next door to the Marine Heritage Centre. An event not to miss is the Ocean ‘s Day Celebration held this year on June 7, 2014 – 10am – 3pm. Open: Sundays, from May to September. Call: (250) 203-1399. Visit: www.pierstreet.com/id1.html

3) Trout Lake Farmers’ Market, Vancouver, BC
For an authentic community feel, look no further than this charming market in East Vancouver. Vendors selling organic veggies and fresh gourmet fare join together for this popular market. You’re encouraged not to drive to the market – but that’s okay, because there’s a bike valet. A picnic area at Trout Lake provides a beautiful spot to enjoy your fresh market discoveries. Try Poplar Grove Arbour’s organic, raw hazelnuts to roast for salads and baking, jars of Arila Apiary chestnut honey and baskets of rare, sweet Lapin cherries from Hoodoo Ranch. Open: Saturdays, from May to October. Call: (604) 879-3276; Visit: www.eatlocal.org/markets.html

4) Guelph Farmers’ Market, Guelph, ON  
A downtown focal point for over 180 years Guelph Farmers’ Market is delightfully diverse. This community place welcomes families to shop for quality meats, cheese, produce, baked goods, preserves, and vendor delicacies.  Open: Saturday mornings year-round. Located at: 2 Gordon Street. Call (519) 822-1260. Visit: www.guelphfarmersmarket.com 

5) City Market Downtown, Edmonton, AB   
Visit vendors that line a shut-down street. Walk by and see vendors from Amberlane Elk, Gourmet Granola, Beary Berry Honey and more. Open: From May to Thanksgiving, 9am to 3pm outdoors Located at: 104th Street, north of Jasper Avenue. Call (780) 429-5713. Visit: www.city-market.ca

6) Crossroads Market, Calgary, AB 
Calgary’s largest year-round market celebrates 25 years of providing a bustling exotic atmosphere, with over 150 vendors offering everything from Turkish fare to freshly baked German treats. Indoor/ Outdoor market open:  Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 9am – 5pm. Located at: 1235 – 26 Avenue S.E. Call: (404) 291-5208. Visit: crossroadsmarket.ca.  

7) Cambridge Farmers’ Market, Cambridge, ON    
Dating back to 1830, this Historic farmers’ market is nestled among the unique heritage buildings of old Galt where it’s always been. There’s an assortment of produce, meats, cheeses and homemade treats sold by local farmers. Open: Saturdays from 6a.m. to 1p.m. and Wednesdays begin mid-June into September: 6am to 1pm. Located at: 40 Dickson St. Call: 519.740-4680 x4252. Visit: www.cambridge.ca/market                                                        

8) Millarville Farmers’ Market, Millarville, AB  
With more than 160 vendors, this destination farmers’ market 45 minutes southwest of Calgary is all about country atmosphere. It offers a wide array of produce, fresh flowers and bedding plants for sale. There’s also live entertainment. Open: Saturday: 9am-2pm, June 14 to October 4. Visit: millarvilleracetrack.com/farmers-market for events and driving directions. Call:  (403) 931-2404  

9) Hamilton Farmer’s Market, Hamilton, ON  
A large indoor year round Market with over 60 vendors offering a selection of produce, cheese, meat, fish, baked goods, speciality food items, prepared foods and artisan crafts. Open: A seasonal outdoor market on Saturdays from June though to October for local produce only. Saturday outdoor seasonal Market operates from 7 am to 3 pm only on Saturdays from June 8 to November. Call: 905-546-2096 Visit: www.hamiltonfarmersmarket.ca

Find a Farmers’ Market near you. Visit: www.farmersmarketscanada.ca, www.farmersmarketsontario.comwww.albertamarkets.com, or www.bcfarmersmarket.org

Charleen Wyman is a lettuce lover, Farmers’ Market shopaholic and publisher of Healthy Directions magazine.

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