Andreae Prozesky gets the dirt on the St. John’s Farmers’ Market.
“In all of the cities I’ve lived in, going to the farmers’ market on Saturday morning was a major part of my week,” says Lori Greene, Director of Vendor Relations for the St. John’s Farmers’ Market. “We want to create a regular social opportunity for the community to gather and interact.” Sarah Hansen, the market’s Advertising and Media Coordinator, echoes the sentiment, saying, “I really believe that communities can always use another way to connect with each other.”
Aside from the presence of the odd truck in the desolate Churchill Square parking lot, our City of Supermarkets tends to keep its shoppers roofed-in and Muzak-sedated, and its veggies shipped from afar. Consumers looking for local produce have generally had to either invest in farm shares, drive out to one of the area’s farms, or grow their own damned salad.
But after the great success of a few trial markets held last year at the Masonic Temple, a committee has managed to get together enough interest, energy, and focus to plan out a weekly farmers’ market, and it’s almost ready to roll. It’s scheduled for most Saturdays of the summer and fall—from June 7th through November 29th. After looking at several venues, the Lions’ Club Chalet, behind the Curling Club, was chosen for proximity to the downtown, accessibility, ample parking, and indoor/outdoor flexibility should the weather turn ugly some Saturday.
Part of the appeal of a farmers’ market is the development of a direct relationship between producers and buyers. Says Greene, “First and foremost we are aiming to promote locally grown produce that comes from farms in and around the city. The connection between the farmer and the consumer is lost when you go through a third party, such as a chain store. Through the farmers’ market environment, we are looking to reestablish and preserve that connection.”
Farmers won’t be the only ones tending booths. The current list of vendors includes artisans, artists, and craftspeople, as well as individuals preparing specialty foods (African, Italian, and Egyptian treats), baked goods, and breakfast items like smoothies and pancakes. “There will be such diversity of products,” Greene says. “People are encouraged to come, check out what the vendors are offering, have a coffee, take the kids to the playground behind [the venue], have some good food for lunch, and make it a part of their routine.”
The urban shopper isn’t always aware what sorts of things are available just around the corner from them, or that local farmers are producing ever more varied and high-quality vegetables, herbs, and meats. Greene wants the market experience to show the public “the benefits of supporting local agriculture and using locally produced food and products.”
Making the market exciting and kid-friendly has been a priority, and exposing children to the joys of local produce is a driving factor for Greene. “When I moved home, I missed [the farmers’ market] so much, and I was saddened by the thought that my daughter, Marlo, would grow up without it, so I was very motivated to get this going here in our wonderful city,” she explains.
When asked who benefits from farmers’ markets, Sarah Hansen replies with an enthusiastic “everyone!”
“Certainly,” adds Greene, “the vendors will benefit from the public purchasing their wares, but the public will definitely be the big winners here because we will have high quality produce, delicious food, and beautiful art on offer each week.” •
The first St. John’s Farmers’ Market happens Saturday, June 7th, 9 am-2 pm at the Lions’ Club Chalet, behind the Re/max Centre and Curling Club on Mayor Avenue (off Bonaventure). If you are a farmer and are interested in setting up a booth, please contact Lori at email@example.com. A complete list of market dates is available on the website, www.stjohnsfarmersmarket.com.