Enjoying Our Local Farmers’ Bounty

Tina Bastas of The Humble Herb, Cobourg. Photo: Joyce Higgs

The Link, Summer 2017
| by Joyce Higgs |

Farmers’ markets are all about people. They provide fun places to visit and meet with local farmers and their customers. If farmers are selling at a farmers’ market chances are it’s because they enjoy meeting and greeting their customers. The excitement they feel about their products can be contagious and bring producers and consumers together. They are also wonderful social occasions – a great place to visit with friends and catch up on news. It’s like a carnival atmosphere but with really good food!

Local food is less energy-intensive compared to non-local food. In North America, food often travels 1,500 miles on average from farm to consumer. Local food at a farmers’ market can be measured in hours travelled (or even minutes). Jan Laurie of the Peterborough Farmers’ Market has an incredibly small carbon footprint – she lives less than a block from the market and every Saturday pushes her cart there filled with fresh, delicious and nutritious greens sprouted from seeds.

Learning about the product you’re interested in is always easy at the market. Ask the farmer if he/she grew it. How and where was it grown? Jenny Madden grows vegetables, herbs and flowers at her Glenlea Farm using sustainable farming practices. She especially loves creating beautiful cut-flower bouquets and arrangements. From the first tulips of spring to summer peonies, fall sunflowers and then winter arrangements of pine boughs, Jenny uses the seasonal flowers she grows for the beautiful creations that she sells at the Campbellford Farmers’ Market.

Ron Foxall, Belleville. Photo: Joyce Higgs

By supporting your local farmers’ market you are supporting the local economy by buying your fresh food from local farmers. More money stays in the local economy when food is produced, processed and sold within the same region. And shoppers who come to a farmers’ market also visit neighbouring stores, so they benefit as well. Jackie Tapp, Manager of the Belleville Farmers’ Market, describes how the market draws large crowds of visitors, especially during the summer tourist season. Situated beside the historic City Hall, the market was designed to contribute to the image of Downtown Belleville as “a place to stop, shop and visit.”

Farmers at local markets contribute to genetic diversity by growing many different varieties of fruits and vegetables. Elaina Asselin and Gregory Hill of Wicklow Way Farms in Grafton are proud to grow certified organic produce throughout the growing season. They offer produce from asparagus to zucchini and 50 different varieties of tomatoes at the Cobourg Farmers’ Market. You’re bound to find one (or a dozen) that you love!

Exactly what are fiddleheads, Jerusalem artichoke, haskap or garlic scapes? Be bold and try something new. If you see something you don’t recognize, ask the vendors as they are great sources of information and can often supply recipes or direct you to where you can find recipes for their “unusual and intriguing” products. Dan Legault of Dan Ledandan Foods at the Peterborough Farmers’ Market loves to share his unusual products. One favourite is his blue coconut lime drink with blue algae and maple sugar. If you’d rather have a chocolate treat, try his brilliant blue chocolate made with blue algae. It’s not only delicious but healthy as algae are a source of vitamin B12.

Uileann Pipes Busker. Photo: Joyce Higgs

There’s so much more than food at a farmers’ market. You can find alpaca fibre socks and mittens, emu oil skin care products, hand-made jewellery, bird feeders (and food) and wood creations. Ron Foxall at the Belleville Farmers’ Market paints clay flower pots and small stones which he describes as peace rocks and healing runes. He also paints a collection of 20 stones entitled, ‘The Stone Children of the Medicine’ which can be bought separately or together with a booklet explaining their use.

“It’s like a carnival atmosphere but with really good food!”

Benefit from buying food that has been picked just in time for the market as fruits and vegetables start losing nutrients as soon as they are harvested. Helen Evergroen at the Campbellford Farmers’ Market grows vegetables at her farm and wild harvests produce such as morels and wild leeks, and also picks berries at a local berry farm. She preserves the benefit of their freshness by producing jams, jellies, pickles, sauces and relishes.

While shopping at the market you may also find it’s a great place to buy breakfast, lunch or dinner. From samosas to smoked lake trout and pizza to perogies you’re sure to find great meals. Tina Bastas of The Humble Herb at the Cobourg Farmers’ Market grows and wild forages herbs which she transforms into teas and fermented salted herbs. She also makes delicious dips, organic spelt, sour-leavened flatbread and Jhal Muri (an Indian-style street food). Her menu changes weekly so you’ll always discover a novel snack or meal.

Most markets offer special events throughout the season. And don’t forget to drop your spare change (or bills) in the busker’s guitar or violin case!

BELLEVILLE FARMERS’ MARKET – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 8 am to 5 pm, Market Square at Pinnacle St. Facebook

CAMPBELLFORD FARMERS’ MARKET – Wednesday and Saturday, 8 am to noon, corner of River and Front Streets. Facebook

COBOURG FARMERS’ MARKET – Saturday, 8 am to 1 pm, Market Square, downtown Cobourg right behind Victoria Hall. www.cobourgfarmersmarket.com

PETERBOROUGH FARMERS’ MARKET – Saturday, 7 am to 1 pm, by the Memorial Centre, George and Lansdowne Streets in Peterborough. www.peterboroughfarmersmarket.com