farmers marketBy Anne Käärid

Stop by the Owen Sound Farmers' Market year round, and experience the joy and excitement found at this lively hub of the community. You will be greeted by an array of happy faces, stories and greetings from visitors and merchants alike, sounds of local music and tantalizing smells of a delicious breakfast to share with neighbours! Walk along the isles, inside and out and you might hear one of the local farmers describe how their produce has grown and share stories of why it is unique in this season. Visit a stall of an artisan or producer, and learn how they craft their fine works and foods with care and heart and soul. Watch yourselves at knee-level, as there are often children scurrying about at the Market enjoying the enthusiasm of the crowds, and trying out some local produce! I like to think the kids who come through the market and sample a fresh apple or a handful of cherry tomatoes will go on to make healthier choices for the rest of their lives. Coming to your Farmers' Market is a fun, relaxing and sometimes educational community adventure to enjoy on any Saturday morning throughout the year.

The Owen Sound Farmers' Market has been in operation since 1851 making it the oldest market in the county and a continued hub of our community. Since this time, it has remained at the same location and has maintained its reputation as a true Farmers' Market. The Market boasts a variety of vendors who sell fresh meats, poultry and fish, baked goods and treats, local maple syrup and honey, farm fresh eggs, ethnic foods, as well as stands of unique artisans, potters, and jewelers sharing their one-of-a-kind items. The spring through autumn seasons bring the farmers and their fresh picked fruits, vegetables, plants, and flowers. If you are interested in where your food comes from and how it gets from the field to your kitchen, shopping at the Farmers' Market is making it easier to cook responsibly, and far more 'deliciously'!

Farmers' markets keep us in touch with the seasons in a way I have come to cherish—the arrival of asparagus and the first luscious strawberries in the spring, sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes and succulent fresh corn at the height of summer, a rainbow cornucopia of peppers and squash come autumn, and winter's crop of savoury root vegetables, which we love to roast with fresh local garlic and herbs, a recipe we discovered by hanging out at the Farmers' Market.

Amongst the farmers' fresh produce and meat stalls, you can find several artisans and crafters and quite a few different bakers at this wonderful Farmers' Market. Once your fresh food, meat and cheese shopping is completed, you can get lost in the beauty of the hand-crafted pottery, jewelry, fiber works, organic soaps, and hand-cut cards offered at the Market. So many incredible gift ideas to bring back to a cherished friend, or to decorate your own home! There is also a great selection of maple syrup and local honey; jams, sauces and chutneys; and of course baked goods including breads, biscotti, sweeties and deserts and even organic treats for your pets!

The truth is I've always loved farmers' markets. I love to cook, and the Owen Sound Farmers' Market is the best place to find the freshest local vegetables, fruits and herbs of the season. The Farmers' Market offers all the inspiration my family needs to make something special for dinner, whether it's a homemade pizza with leeks, heirloom tomatoes, feta and turkey bacon, or an asparagus-potato frittata! Thanks to the generous conversations with our local farmers, we've been introduced to items we didn't know much about before, such as fiddleheads (a furled frond of a young fern used as a vegetable - great in soups, salads or sautéed!).

The benefits of supporting farmers' markets go beyond individual health to something larger: the well-being of an entire community. When you buy from an artisan, farm or a farmers' market, you are helping ensure that the local business is economically viable and that local produce, goods and crafts will be available year after year. I can't speak for everyone, but for me it is worth a lot to know that every spring I can help myself to several different varieties of exquisitely ripe and sweet berries, and that late summer / early autumn will arrive with fresh gourds and beautiful heirloom tomatoes by the basketful. It is important to me to be able to bring home whole foods, support local art and artisans, and have an impact on my family's good health, together with sustaining the health my beloved community. Encouraging people to shop at farmers' markets brings awareness to shopping local, understanding the region and learning how to shape your lifestyle to reach your own personal priorities. All in all, you end up getting a lot from your dollar when you spend it at our local Farmers' Market, and that dollar goes right back into our own community.

By their very nature, farmers' markets encourage us to buy seasonal produce. As every chef knows, the most beautiful, best-tasting and most economical foods are the ones that are in season. Eating with the seasons is all about anticipation and then delighting in what is ripe at the moment. The bounty on display at the Owen Sound Farmers' Market at the peak of the season is the very opposite of fast food. It's food that a farmer has spent months nurturing to the moment of perfect ripeness. It is food to be cherished and savoured.

The bustling Market building stays busy throughout the week outside of Farmers' Market hours. It hosts various community groups for meetings and social gatherings, has a public health inspected kitchen available which is currently used for a delicious take-out service three days a week in the summer, as well as a unique Chef's Dinner Event which serves approximately ten diners on Saturday and Sunday evenings highlighting local ingredients in his original-plated menus. As the heart of the community, in June of 2015, the Owen Sound Farmers' Market was proud to announce the newly created Owen Sound Farmers' Market Agricultural Bursary Fund, in partnership with the Community Foundation Grey Bruce. This fund supports students that are interested in pursuing a post secondary education in the field of agriculture. (Sorry, no pun intended!) This fine historical building and the community that supports it is indeed a treasure in the centre of our fair city!

But of course its main purpose is that of the weekly Farmers' Market - which affirms the simple fact that this local Farmers' Market is just plain fun! It is a place where people can come together to shop, talk, sit on a chair and watch the world go by, listen to music and exchange recipes and community news. Local markets are as old as the oldest human settlements, and they have always been about more than just the buying and selling of goods. They are the heart and soul of a community. With the rise of big-box stores and shopping malls, we have unfortunately lost this feature in many parts of the country. However, here in Owen Sound we are greatly blessed to have this thriving gem of a Farmers' Market in our own backyard!

If you haven't visited in a while, please make a point of experiencing the vibrant Owen Sound Farmers' Market, and engage with a number of year round and seasonal growers, producers and artisans. I urge you to support them. I know there's nothing more important to health than what you eat, to a community than how you support it, and to our well-being than to get out in your neighbourhood and experience the beauty of it.

Enjoy the Owen Sound Farmers' Market in good health and with much joy this week!

source: Anne Käärid with Sophii, the small dog entrepreneur -- Sophii's Choice: A Field to Bowl Barkery


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