It was an interesting day downtown today – as Mack and I walked towards City Hall this afternoon, we encountered the Occupy Edmonton demonstration in Churchill Square.
It was peaceful but spirited, with protesters carrying a wide variety of signs and costumed as everything from V to zombies.
With so much activity in the core, we figured it must be just as bustling inside City Hall, but that wasn’t the case. I loved the irony – if even half of the protesters purchased something from a purveyor at the market, what kind of difference would that act make towards supporting small businesses and local economies? Anyway, that’s a different discussion for another day.
Unlike last year, when the City Market didn’t make the leap into City Hall on a regular basis until March, I was excited when it was announced that the transition from street to indoors would be immediate. With a forthcoming marketing campaign on ETS buses and LRT, this edition of the year-round City Market also seems like it will be better advertised. Still, approaching City Hall, one would be hard pressed to guess if anything was going on inside, let alone Edmonton’s oldest farmers’ market. I can imagine the politics that might be involved in proposing outdoor signage for the building, but it would definitely go a long way in raising the profile and visibility of the market.
An unmarked City Hall
Inside, there were about three dozen vendors. Having arrived around 1pm, we figured we missed the rush, but we were told that it had been fairly slow so far.
The set-up in the City Room was similar to the spring market, with vendors lining most of the first floor. We asked about the capacity of the space (given there are currently sixty vendors who have signed up to participate this fall and winter), and were told that they have the permission to expand to the second level if need be.
Kuhlmann’s and Doef’s had prime spaces
Apparently the marimba player (who would be familiar to City Market on 104 Street shoppers) had been performing earlier in the day, but had retired by the time we arrived. Unfortunately, there was no ambient music to fill the void that he left – hopefully the Market works on this next week as it felt a bit like a library beneath the pyramid.
Shoppers peruse fruit at Steve & Dan’s
We really weren’t sure which vendors to expect, knowing that many producers have chosen only to sell on select Saturdays (the list of vendors on the website is thus not that helpful). But we were pleasantly surprised at the variety – Doef’s, Kuhlmann’s, Sundog Organic and Steve & Dan’s were on hand for produce; Nature’s Green Acres, Sunshine Organic, Irvings Farm Fresh, Medicine Man Bison and Ocean Odyssey for protein; and Prairie Mill to round out the basics. We missed seeing Van Os Dairy though – it was nice to be able to get organic milk on the same trip as well!
Produce at Sundog Organic
Obviously, Mack and I are thrilled to have a year-round farmers’ market within walking distance of our home, and will continue to support this venture. However, I’ve said it before, but I will say it again – the Market needs to do a better job at informing consumers which producers will be present on which days (their advice on the website is this: “make sure you talk to your favourite vendors and find out their market schedule”). Particularly because vendors will be inconsistent through the season, I really think it would not only help shoppers plan, but help the market as a promotional tool.
When we approached the information table with this question, we saw they had a detailed matrix of vendors and market dates on paper. We asked why that information wasn’t available online, and we were told they were still learning how to use the new website, and didn’t have the final confirmation for some vendors. Though the Alberta Avenue Farmers’ Market is much smaller, they’ve managed to do this, so there is precedence.
As I mentioned, we will be back next week, but we do hope some minor tweaks will be made to help make this market the best year-round option in Edmonton.
The City Market at City Hall will run every Saturday (except December 24 and 31) from 10am-3pm until May 2012.