A highlight of the summer is the array of markets that pop up across our country; from Halifax to Inuvik to Swift Current, Sask.
Even if some markets remain open year-round, we eagerly wait for the summertime markets to arrive. Call it cabin fever, but when the tents go up and growers come out, people like to leave their homes and mingle at the market.
Food stories abound at markets as we shop directly from growers and makers. They share their trials and tribulations with us. The weather, the new oven or the long hours working to bring things together create a bond between them and the buyers. Buyers appreciate the efforts made, come rain or come shine, to bring them the best they can.
Consumers become intimately acquainted with the seasons and what they offer. Rather than asking for apples in June they learn to appreciate cherries. They are often surprised at the bounty that comes from the root cellar of the previous harvest and can still buy root vegetables and cabbages in spring. The market is an education.
The consumer is more directly connected to the process of growing the food. When high winds and storms take down a hoop tunnel greenhouse in Saskatoon and almost an entire crop of eggplant is lost, there is appreciation for their local food grower.
When weather damages the apricots, we learn to not expect perfection but to appreciate the effort and heartaches of the farmer.
Fresh food is a reasonable expectation. The produce is picked a couple of days before the market. Sometimes it is washed and sometimes not. It depends upon how well it keeps after washing. You won’t find sanitized food but freshly harvested, small farm food.
Market etiquette should be observed. Most people don’t realize that 10 minutes after squeezing an apple you will see fingerprints. There are better ways to test for readiness and if you ask, most vendors will let you sample the produce.
Know your farmer. Get to know the sellers you prefer. They are usually eager to share their ways of dealing with the weather and planting to get the best product. Spend time chatting but perhaps don’t start a long conversation at their busiest time.
Night markets are increasingly popular and many are not strictly farmers’ markets. The Richmond Night Market in Richmond, B.C., is a treasure trove of Asian street foods, merchandise vendors, games and live entertainment. It was founded in 2000 and is now the largest night market in North America, welcoming more than one million visitors a year.
I arrived early and was glad I did when I saw the traffic lined up to get in as I left. It is located on 18 acres and parking is in the field. It is a must visit with any trip to the Lower Mainland. It is open every weekend from May to October.
The term market can be confusing due to the number of different kinds. A market garden, orchard or farmgate sales happen right on the site where the food grows. More relaxed rules with the health region are allowed. However, unpasteurized milk products are not allowed and meat must be processed in an inspected facility.
A public market is different. It is usually housed in a permanent facility and open year-round and daily. In addition to produce from farmers it will feature small shops offering products related to food such as spices and coffees. Fabrics, clothing and artisanal furniture may also be offered. The products are not necessarily local but may come from around the globe.
Community kitchens, demonstrations, classes, public events and celebrations may be offered by both farmers and public markets.
As we celebrate Food Day Canada this weekend take a moment to think about what’s special about markets.
It is a way to connect with your community, know where your food comes from, enjoy the season and perhaps most importantly, support family farmers.
Whatever your reason to patronize markets, know that there are many people who are happy you do.
Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: email@example.com.