After October, farmers’ markets are harder to come by in Edmonton. Thankfully, in the past few years, Salisbury and the Alberta Avenue Farmers’ Markets have joined the year-round fray. And while Old Strathcona has been our go-to source for local food in the winter months, Mack and I had wanted to revisit Alberta Avenue for some time (I stopped by back in June). We finally had the chance to do so this past Thursday.
Alberta Avenue Farmers’ Market
While fairly centrally located at 93 Street and 118 Avenue (and just one bus from downtown), the market’s hours of 2-7 p.m. make it a little challenging for those who don’t live or work in the area to patronize it before closing. That might be changing in the future, however – Mary Ellen Gruneberg of Greens, Eggs and Ham (who joined the market after the conclusion of the City Market this year) is on the steering committee, and said they are strongly considering shifting the hours to 4-8 p.m.
Mary Ellen behind the always welcoming GEH table
That said, it may not be the hours alone that are keeping shoppers away. While nearly half of the thirty vendors last Thursday were food vendors, the majority of those were selling prepared food.
Inside Alberta Avenue Community Hall (love the festive balloons!)
Of course there is a place for crafts and ready-to-eat food, and there should be a balance between fresh goods and other merchandise. But with no produce besides what Greens, Eggs and Ham was offering that day, I can see that as a deterrent for some would-be shoppers (you can check out the list of weekly vendors here – it is updated late Wednesday/early Thursday).
That said, as Mary Ellen pointed out, it’s a bit of a chicken-egg argument – without a strong customer base, farmers will not consider Alberta Avenue as a viable option – making the trip has to be worthwhile for them. At the same time, without interesting products, customers will choose to take their business elsewhere – to Salisbury, or Old Strathcona, for example.
Some producers are optimistic that the tide will be turning soon, however. Rosemarie Jordan of Rainbow Covenant Ranch also moved to the Alberta Avenue market at the close of the City Market (she sells wagyu beef, prized for its marbled nature). She said some weeks are slow, but as customers become more familiar with her beef, she is confident that sales will improve. I bought some of her breakfast sausages to try – they’re her top selling product!
Rosemarie from Rainbow Covenant Ranch
Other vendors were brand new – Amanda and Jessica (aka The Chocolate Doctors – their business cards are too cute) were selling vegan-friendly, raw chocolate. After switching to a raw diet (one where foods are not heated beyond 46 °C), they weren’t able to find any chocolate to suit their specifications, so decided to make their own. In my opinion, niche-products like theirs are perfect for farmers’ markets – at least until they are able to find other outlets to sell their chocolate.
The Chocolate Doctors!
We also chatted with Katarina of Red Barn Pekin Duck (it’s a wonder that such a small market has not one, but two duck purveyors). Katarina had a small slow cooker with samples of roasted duck ready to offer customers – she said most people were not very accustomed to eating farm-raised duck, so it was helpful to be able to introduce people to the taste.
Katarina of Red Barn Pekin Duck
Mack and I will be making more of an effort to incorporate a visit to Alberta Avenue Farmers’ Market during our work week – and we hope you will consider doing so as well – there’s definitely a need to have more year-round markets in our city!
Alberta Avenue Farmers’ Market
118 Avenue & 93 Street
Open Thursdays, 2-7 p.m.