What’s on your plate? Why farmers’ markets benefit everyone  

Organically Delicious produce from Todd and Galena’s Garden - just one of many healthy options available to OOE market shoppers. Photo by GENEVIEVE GAZAILLE.

Organically Delicious produce from Todd and Galena’s Garden – just one of many healthy options available to OOE market shoppers. Photo by GENEVIEVE GAZAILLE.

By GENEVIÈVE GAZAILLE 

 Come summertime, some 20 farmers’ markets pop up all around the region. Old Ottawa East is no exception, thanks to the Main Street Farmers’ Market, a staple of our community that sets up in front of Saint Paul University every Saturday. 

Farmers’ markets have certainly benefited from a renewed interest as of late, but in Canada, the first ones appeared in the late 1700s. Although not considered a true farmers’ market because of its proportion of resellers and craft vendors, ByWard Market is the oldest market still standing in Ottawa, dating back to 1826. Today, Farmers’ Markets Ontario (FMO) is 180 members strong, a number that has tripled since the eighties. 

Healthy, sustainable and viable 

Buying directly from the people who produce our food has many benefits.  

First, customers get to learn exactly how their food is produced. Industrial agriculture can be detrimental to the environment, polluting water and sending chemicals into the ground. But smaller-scale agriculture often uses less radical methods, whether to reduce expenditures or to protect the land and insure long term financial sustainability. Knowing how food is produced also allows consumers to make savvy decisions for their health. Many illnesses have been linked to the presence of growth hormones, antibiotics and chemicals in the food we eat. 

Second, buying directly from producers, whether at the market, through a CSA membership or at the farm, means that our money goes straight into their pockets. According to FMO, for each dollar we spend at markets, another $2 is injected into the Ontario economy. While buying “local” at the grocery may seem cheaper than elsewhere, only a small portion of farmers produce enough food to supply supermarkets. The ones that do often need to drastically reduce their prices and hope to turn a profit on volume. The end result is that only a tiny portion of the sale price will actually end up in the producer’s pockets.  

Lastly, buying at the market means you can access foods you wouldn’t find elsewhere because they require a quick turnover or are grown in small quantities, and you get a product that’s perfectly ripe and fresh. Products coming from afar need to be picked while they’re still green, so they won’t rot before they get to your plate. In any case, buying California strawberries may be convenient, but let’s remember that convenience in this case comes at the cost of trucks transporting them all over North America and causing greenhouse gases.  

Shopping at the Main Market 

La Fermière folle is one of the vendors you will find at the Main Farmers’ Market. Family-owned and based in the Pontiac, it offers grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork, honey and free-range eggs at the market and through a CSA subscription. To Ana McBride, the well-being of the animal directly impacts the quality of the meat: “We think what distinguishes farmers’ markets food is the quality of the product. You simply can’t compare. We feel that buying from local farmers’ markets is the best way for consumers to understand where their food is coming from. It also allows them to reflect on the impact their choice as a consumer has on the local economy and environment.” 

Beside produce from other meat vendors, residents visiting the Saturday market will find stands offering a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, preserves, baked goods, prepared foods, beeswax reusable food wraps and the occasional craft. 

According to Noel Dhingra, the market’s new co-manager and owner of Cadence Ecological Farm, the Main Street Market fills a void in a neighborhood considered to be a food desert (an area lacking a place to acquire food) and contributes to the sense of community: “Farmers’ markets are spaces where community is built. Food is essential to life, and the market is a place where it is celebrated and truly valued. It’s also a place where friends and family can meet, eat, and laugh.” 

Keep your eyes out for upcoming activities! Beyond samplings and recipes, the Main Street Market will be welcoming the band, The Pairs on August 18th and hosting a silk screening workshop on September 15th. 

 

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Filed in: Community Groups, Culture, Front Page

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