Farmers’ markets cropping up in downtown Winnipeg

Residents increasingly seeing producers face to face this summer

Residents of downtown Winnipeg have been struggling to find locally sourced, fresh produce ever since core area grocery stores closed their doors this past spring.

To deal with the lack of fresh produce downtown, The Farmers’ Market Association of Manitoba (FMAM) joined with Downtown Biz to start an outdoor market to serve the community.

The FMAM is a cooperative between Manitoba farmers and producers which promotes the development of producers and provides consumers with local food. The Downtown Biz Farmers’ Market is located behind the Manitoba Hydro building on Graham Avenue and takes place every Thursday from 12 noon - 5:30 pm.

“It’s something that’s needed in downtown: food access and fresh food,” says Downtown Biz Farmers’ Market Vendor Coordinator Margot Malobar. “There aren’t too many options for people downtown because of The Bay closing down.

“People are always wanting to try new local foods and there are some new local products that vendors have and we’re able to try. It’s a really good venue for people to do that.”

There are many other farmers markets in the city, Malobar contends, but this one has really taken off. The market has been the fastest growing in Winnipeg, with a wait list for vendors to occupy space each week. The market was set to close on September 5, but due its immense popularity, vendors are looking to keep it running until September 19.

People are always wanting to try new local foods and there are some new local products that vendors have and we’re able to try. It’s a really good venue for people to do that.

Margot Malobar, vendor coordinator, Downtown Biz Farmers Market

The market is lively, continually bustling with workers and community members. It’s easy to see how reasonably priced, locally sourced, organic food keeps people coming back each week.

“It’s such a wonderful, vibrant thing to have downtown,” says Jackie Avent of Hoop Soda, a company making soda syrups from locally-sourced ingredients.

“You see a lot of diverse ages, families that come with their children, but there’s also a lot of elderly people from the neighbouring apartments that are buying big bags of vegetables. . . having access to this fresh, local produce is really important.”

For a change of scenery, the West Broadway Farmers’ Market – located at 669 Broadway – is open every Wednesday from 4:00 - 6:30 pm, and is run by the Good Food Club, a community initiative promoting food security and healthy living habits.

Market coordinator Damien Gagne says it came out of a need in the community for fresh produce at accessible prices. He points out how farmers’ markets come together to provide fresh food without having to count on big chains, or the government to lend a hand.

“These fresh food markets are really taking charge instead of waiting for the government to intervene. It’s a grassroots movement and we gotta take charge. We can’t wait for the government, we just gotta do it on our own,” he says.

Not only do these markets provide easier access to healthy food, they allow residents to get together every week. And that’s what makes farmers’ markets so special: local food and community building.

Published in Volume 68, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 4, 2013)

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