The Farmer’s Market brings the country to Old Ottawa East

Each weekend, about 45 local businesses gather in the parking lot of Saint Paul University to participate in the Main Farmers’ Market.

Most are agricultural producers. With one exception, they live within 100 miles of Old Ottawa East. About half provide organic products.

Photo: Browsing the produce at the Main Farmers’ Market. Credit: Ron Rose

Hoople Creek Farm is a small-scale mixed farm located in Ingleside in the Seaway Valley. Their stand is located on the north side of the market. They sell mostly vegetables.

“Our produce is as fresh as it can get,” said owner Jamie Creskey. “Everything that we grow goes directly to consumers.”

Creskey said he particularly enjoyed talking with the Main market’s knowledgeable clientele.

Another regular vendor is Thom van Eeghan of the Elk Ranch in Kanata. Van Eeghan has sold meat at the Market since it opened. His stand is located near the south west corner.

“Our animals are raised free range, so we don’t need to use any antibiotics” van Eeghan said. His animals are also raised without artificial hormones.

He said he enjoyed selling at the Main market because it had a friendly atmosphere and was reasonable sized. He found customers and vendors friendly.

“I also like the fact that the market is well managed, not bureaucratic,” van Eeghen added.

Warner’s Farms, from Beamsville on the Niagara peninsula, is the market’s one exception to the local producer rule. Market managers have allowed Warner’s Farms to sell their produce because they provide goods not available locally, such as peaches and plums.

Most of the vendors pick produce late on Fridays and get up between five and six on Saturday mornings to prepare their goods and drive to Main Street. Torrie Warner of Warner’s Farms, lives differently.

“I normally leave before midnight on Friday to come to Ottawa,” he said.

Most of the people attending the Market on a recent morning were from Old Ottawa East. Some had travelled from other areas.

Lenore Fahrig said she lived in the Glebe, but occasionally comes to the Main Market, “to get fresh, non-factory meat and eggs.”

Others said they came for direct contact with producers.

“We like the fact that it’s within walking distance, has great variety and is really well organized,” said Melissa and Jean-Robert Brisson.

“It’s nice to be able to talk directly with the farmer producing the food, to find out the difference between two similar products, what’s in season and what will be available in a couple of weeks,” said Heather and Kevin Abbott, who lived nearby. “The produce is beautiful, and you often run into your neighbours.”

The market also provides special market dollars to local community organizations for people who need produce. The market dollars can be redeemed at any of the stalls at the Main market.

The market is facing a few challenges.

Manager Greer Knox was concerned potential customers may have stayed away this year thinking supplies were limited because of the drought.

Some vendors are also concerned about the proliferation of farmers’ markets within Ottawa, and wonder if they will have to be selective about which ones to attend.

The Main Farmers’ Market will be open this year until Saturday, Oct. 27.

The Mainstreeter congratulates Scott Watson, Old Ottawa East’s local pharmacist, on the recent opening of his second store: in Wellington Village. Watson assured the newspaper he had no plans to leave the neighbourhood.

“I’ll be here in Old Ottawa East at least until I retire,” he said.

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