Connecting at the Farmer’s Market

Farmers' Market

Image by NatalieMaynor via Flickr

There is a Farmer’s Market within a 10 minute walk of my house that is open year round. I have only recently begun to appreciate how lucky I am to have it so close. However, it is a small market. For the last month I have been going to my city’s largest market, mostly for the variety of foods offered. Yesterday I decided to check out my local market again, and see what I could find.

Kulman’s is the one vegetable vendor at this market – their operation is on the edge of the city. I bought potatoes and tomatoes. Then I noticed his pickled carrots and asked him if they tasted like pickles. He answered that they have such a different texture than pickles – they are not juicy but hard, and you really can taste the carrot. I considered buying a jar to sample (before I make my own pickled carrots one day) but they were $16 so I held off. I told him I wanted to make pickles this year, but had never done it before. He then went on to tell me how easy it was to make pickles, and specifically how to do it. “They key is tweaking the recipe to just how you like it”, he said.

I wandered on. There was a new girl in the Market, selling organic homemade cosmetics and candy under the name Mistical AcScents. She was super cool. Get this – she is inspired by the 16th century. Her products are a total throwback to medieval times!! She researches what people used way back then, using University archives and transcripts that have been made available online through Google Books. She then recreates the past, everything handmade, everything naturally organic. She offers face creams, cleansers and toners, as well as lip balm and lip tint. She has some bath products as well, and her homemade candies look divine. She even has her own Etsy shop online, and is part of the Etsy Organic Team. She was so nice, and I so believed in what she was doing, that I broke my shopping ban and bought a small jar of rose face cream. I just felt like I had to support her. This was her second show at the market and I wanted her to stick around. The price was right – $3.50.

Next I purchased eggs from Ma-Be Farms, only 3 dollars for free run and farm fresh. He asked me if I wanted brown eggs or white eggs. “What is the difference?” I asked. “Well brown eggs come from brown chickens and white eggs come from white chickens”, he replied. “It is as simple as that?” I asked. “It is a simple as that”, he replied. I chose a dozen brown. Then he mentioned that they take the egg cartons back to reuse them. I told him that I had been saving all my egg cartons, knowing that somebody would like to reuse them! So eggs for me, and a new home for all my egg cartons.

Next I came across a lady selling hemp products. I have heard of hemp before, but didn’t know a whole lot about it. She explained to me all the uses for hemp – the oil can be used in cosmetics, shampoo, conditioner, and it can be used as cooking oil. The seeds are a fantastic source of protein – a whopping 11 grams in only 2 tablespoons. Vegetarians of the world rejoice! The hemp fibres are super strong and long lasting.  She pulled out her knitting bag from under the table to show me two projects she was working on, using hemp yarns. The first was a hemp/wool blend, and the sweater was quite soft. The second was made from 100% hemp, and it was stiff, but she told me it would soften over time. She said that the sweater would be so long wearing, that it would outlast most people! I asked here where I could get hemp yarn and she told me it was difficult to find, and most yarn mills are located in China or India.  So this miracle fibre is grown locally in Alberta, but we have to ship it across the world to be milled for yarn.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could mill it ourselves?  She agreed. She told me that there are heavy restrictions on growing hemp – you have to apply for a license and that can take up to 2 years. Then the minimum you can grow is 10 acres. This keeps many people out of the market. I guess hemp gets a bad rap, due to its notorious cousin, marijuana. However, hemp doesn’t have any THC, marijuana’s active ingredient. So what is the issue? She also told me about Kestrel, the first road-ready car made out of hemp.  Check it out!  Wow. As for me, I would love to get my hands on some local hemp yarn and make some cosy sweaters for my kids.

I walked out of the market happy with the connections I made and the conversations I had. I definitely learned a few things. I realized though, that almost all these vendors were nearing retirement age (if not beyond). There were so many tables of grandmas, offering homemade baking, homemade children’s blankets, homemade doll clothes. Even the farm vendors were older. It made me think – who is going to replace them when they retire? What will happen to this market?

I am not sure what will happen. All I know is that I want to support these farmers in the here and now. Perhaps if more people do the same, the younger generation of farmers will see that farming can offer a decent living, and be drawn back into the trade. There are so many benefits – from the food security of our region, to the health benefits of the people through eating more whole foods, to the farmers, and to our precious environment.

I will leave you with a wonderful tribute to one farmer – my good friend Becky of F&M wrote this song for her Grandpa who passed away last month. It is simply – beautiful.

PIcture by Bjoern Friedrich.


2 thoughts on “Connecting at the Farmer’s Market

  1. What a nice story about your trip to the market! Having conversations with the people who actually grow the food you’re going to eat is an incredible experience.

    Regarding younger generations and drawing them back into farming, the way I understand it, it’s not at all a lack of interest, it’s a lack of money. I know plenty of urban youth who would love nothing else than to run an organic farm, but they see no future in it, at least not as long as we continue to import food from other countries that we can just as easily grow here, ship the crops we do produce across the country instead of consuming them in the regions they grew in, and manufacture great amounts of heavily-processed, artificially flavoured/coloured, nutritionally poor prepared foods. I’ve heard that the average income for a farmer in Ontario is – $20,000 per year, which is lower than during the Great Depression. Something has to be done. More than just rural employment opportunities, our nation’s food source is at risk.

    • We have such similar views on this issue! I am reading the book “Locavore” and it is really opening my eyes as to what is going on with farming in Canada right now. I also beleive that our food security is at risk, since we rely so heavily on imported food. Some countries are already shutting their borders on food exports (for example Russia with grains) due to increased food shortages worldwide. I really believe we must support our local farmers, to ensure that the number of farms in Canada does not drop to catastrophically low levels. Young people are not coming into the trade, and the older generation is about to retire. I read that farmers that do make more money are those that sell to consumers directly, through farmer’s markets and CSA arrangments. By shopping at the farmer’s markets, you are supporting these local farmers, ensuring the viability of farming in Canada, while reducing your food footprint by eating more locally. Not to mention the health benefits!!

      I cannot even fathom that average income figure for such an important trade… I agree, something has to be done! What can I do? Eat locally, and spread the word!

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