Road Trip: Farmers’ Markets and Festivals

We always hit up at least one farmers’ market when we’re in Calgary – this time, we visited two.

The first stop was the Kingsland Farmers’ Market, which I wrote about back in April. Since our last visit, they’ve been setting up tents outside to take advantage of the warmer weather.

Tomatoes!

Gorgeous tomatoes

Field Stone Fruit Winery

Spotted the new Field Stone Fruit Wine labels – snazzy!

It’s always a treat to see Mary Ellen (of Greens, Eggs and Ham). Since they set up shop at Kingsland, we pretty much only see her when we’re down in Calgary! We also look forward to picking up Rustic Sourdough Bakery’s pretzels rolls – will someone in Edmonton make these, please?

Kingsland Farmers' Market

I like the idea of a “specials” board, though this one is a little hard to read

We then drove down to the new location of the Calgary Farmers’ Market (CFM), which wasn’t quite ready when we were last down. Though I am frustrated sometimes with how Edmonton is such a car-centric city, in this instance, we do fare better – at least our two largest farmers’ markets (City Market and Old Strathcona) are situated centrally, easily accessible by LRT and/or main bus routes.

At the special City Market meeting called earlier this year to help determine the direction of the year-round venue, the consultant showed photographs of the CFM, using it as a prime example of what permanent stalls could look like. As a result, Mack and I were eager to see what it looked like in person.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Calgary Farmers’ Market

At first glance, the CFM is everything a market should be: bright, bustling, with wide aisles and clear signs. There was an expansive seating area as well, and high tables perfect for resting coffee upon while browsing. The “rustic” wood frame around each stall looked perhaps a little too polished, but I appreciated the aesthetic they were going for.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Busy place

There was also a great mix of vendors, as expected, from produce to meat and poultry, to dairy and even local grains and oils.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Great dairy case (it was a good excuse to finally try Vital Green Farms’ chocolate milk – it was delicious!)

Highwood Crossing

Loved Highwood Crossing’s tagline: “Canada’s olive oil”

But walking around, it was clear the CFM didn’t have the same feel as the City Market, Old Strathcona, or even Kingsland for that matter. Between the large food court and play area, it resembled more of a shopping mall.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Food court

I’m definitely not against concessions and family-friendly spaces, but it was the first market I’ve ever come across that seemed to want to please everyone. One can only imagine such amenities would be factored into vendors’ rent and maintenance costs.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Play area

Mary Ellen explained to us in the past Calgary’s “one-stop shop” mentality, which results in farmers’ markets carrying everything from lemons to bananas beside the local produce. But at the CFM, there also seemed to be a number of resellers present. This is fine, except that it wasn’t easy to distinguish between producers and resellers – and really, isn’t the point of farmers’ markets for patrons to buy food directly from those who grew it? Sure, some consumers might ask the right questions, but ideally, it should be more intuitive than that.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Innisfail Growers – not a reseller!

In addition, we had to wonder about the viability of a four day market. There’s no question that it is convenient and more accessible, allowing consumers a place to shop for local wares Thursday to Sunday. But because we saw several examples of sad and wilted produce on tables, it seemed some vendors were having challenges ensuring product quality. Perhaps there isn’t adequate on-site cold storage for all who need it? Also, based on the discussion at the City Market meeting in April, we know some producers mentioned that staffing and refreshing a multi-day market would be difficult – for example, who would tend to the farm over that period?

Strawberries from The Jungle Farm

At the end of the day, our visit to CFM just made me think of all the facets of a “modern” year-round market. And with the City Market continuing to explore venues for their own year-round venture, it will be interesting to see what direction they decide to take.

We ended our tour of Calgary that weekend with a visit to 17th Avenue. We ended up stumbling upon the Uptown 17 market and music festival.

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Love the colourful chairs!

In the area of neighbourhood branding, we still think Calgary does a better job of that than we do in Edmonton. Let’s hope that the “I ❤ #yegdt” catches on enough for the Downtown Business Association to use it more widely!

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Uptown 17 everywhere!

There is always something to do in Edmonton, but the same can be said about Calgary. We’ll be back soon!