So many farmers' markets, so little time

Posted Jun 7th, 2009 in Eating Niagara

So many farmers' markets, so little time

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Strawberries? Check. Potatoes? Got 'em. Radishes? They're in the (reusable) bag.

Such was my trip to the St. Catharines' Farmers' Market Saturday morning. I missed most of the action, showing up around 11:30. I've heard the best time to go is at 7 a.m. That's when the most shoppers and vendors are there. I think some vendors had sold out and left by the time this pillow lover showed up for her shopping.

Still, there was an energy there that I absolutely love. People are talkative and cheerful. I bought my potatoes from Campden farmer Tom Neufeld, who filled me in on a unique integrated pest management practice involving wasps that he's about to try out on his farm. He could have just sold me my potatoes and moved on. But we chatted and I learned even more about one of the people producing the food I eat and how they do it.

The last farmers' market to come online in Niagara this summer will be Brock University's. It starts this Friday and offers a unique way to spend lunch on everybody's favourite day of the week.

I recently did a rundown of all markets in Niagara for The Standard.

(For those outside Niagara, visit your local Home Hardware and pick up a free copy of Harvest, a directory of farm stands and farmers' markets. It's awesome).

Anyway, it's amazing how many markets are in Niagara. It seems the only municipalities missing markets are Wainfleet and, strangely, Lincoln, though I've heard rumours of a movement to get one going in Beamsville.

As a locavore, this might be where I lobby to get markets in those areas. But I'll just be grateful for what Niagara does have and keep my fingers crossed that they last. It's been pointed out to me by several of my regular contacts on this beat — Linda Crago and Albert Witteveen, the president of the Niagara North Federation of Agriculture are among them — that as much as people are going back to local food, not every farmer wants to sell his or her wares at farmers' markets. For some, it's just not in their business plan. Ditto for farmgate sales. As a result, in some cases there really are too many markets and not enough farmers to fill them. And it's naive for the rest of us wanting to fix all that ails the countryside to think that a market will solve all our local farmers' woes.

Still, I'm not going to be down a farmers' markets because they provide a regular outing for many, myself included, that fills us up with food and human connections.

Speaking of filling up with local food, I'm two weeks into my CSA with Linda. I'm soooo happy to be eating local lettuce, green garlic and chives. The pickings are slim right now but as the summer goes on, I know my trips to the farmers' market will probably be fewer and farther between — at least to buy food — because I pretty much get everything I need from my CSA basket.

This is my fourth year as one of Linda's CSA members and signing up was one of the best things I could have done as far as the quality and variety of produce that I'm getting and the friendship that has been struck with Linda, my surrogate mom here in Niagara.

And now for an update on ... the garden.

Time for Grub Blogs - garden

I have one. I just wish we'd get some heat so I would know for sure that I planted everything properly and the only reason nothing is growing except my gooseneck loosestrife — gonna have to keep on eye on that guy or he may take over everything — and my hostas is that it's been a cool spring with minimal sunshine. Us pseudo-green thumb weather watchers have another descriptor for the spring thus far: crap.

Here's a photo of my garden at the moment, equipped with tomato plants that are likely too close together, a pepper plant and eggplant, chard, and flowering plants. Herbs are doing nicely in separate pots — even my basil is living.

Time for Grub Blogs - parsley, rosemary, and basil
My herbs: parsley, rosemary and basil. Alive and sort of well for the moment.


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