Farmers’ markets and farm stands have long been symbolic of summer.
They offer fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables at established community locales and they come in a variety of sizes and shapes: there are large village ‘markets’ supported by dozens of vendors, as well as smaller farm stands tucked away in hamlets, at the end of lane-ways, or along busy highways. No matter the venue, there is nothing quite like fresh asparagus in May, strawberries in June, or corn in late summer. There is nothing quite like locally grown!
This year is no different; there are local markets and farm stands throughout Hastings County and like all businesses, they have implemented COVID protocols. While some larger markets and some traditional farm stands have ‘evolved’ to create on-line businesses and new ways of providing produce, open-air venues continue to thrive.
Farmers’ Markets Ontario has 180 members and a specific list of protocols for Covid-19.You can access an extensive list of local markets and farmers in Harvest Hastings; click on ‘Shop’ and the site lists dozens of products and businesses. The article, “Find out who is growing vegetables near you”, by Louise Livingstone, the Harvest Hastings Coordinator, is also an excellent source for finding markets and venues.
Marsh Hill Farm Stirling is an example of a family owned and operated farm that grows and sells their own produce at a roadside stand, as well as posting produce updates on Facebook. You can also find Amish farm stands in various places throughout the county; there’s one located just north of Ivanhoe Cheese on Highway 62, which sells fresh fruit and preserves – just not on Sundays.
Given that some Farmers’ Markets are doing business differently, buying fresh produce from local farmers via on-line platforms may elevate many from niche roles in our food supply. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an on-line platform that aids in the distribution and growth of ‘organic’ produce. Several farms in Hastings County are using this platform; for example, Earth Haven Farm, located near Thomasburg, now offers a list of veggies and other products on their Facebook page.
It’s important that local farm stands and farmers’ markets continue to exist and be supported alongside hybrid on-line market practises. And so, it is very exciting that the Stirling Farmer’s Market recently re-opened.
NEW – Market in the Village
“After a long hiatus in the village of Stirling, the local farmers’ market is returning to the covered bridge. Local business owners of Creekside Yoga, Jessica and Nathan Rogers saw an opportunity to connect the community with local growers and producers.” Market in the Village is open Fridays from 4:30 to 7 pm.
Jessica says that there has not been a market in Stirling for four or five years, and she currently has ten vendors selling a range of goods from vegetables, flowers, kombucha and cider to homemade cupcakes (which seemed quite popular). The mood at Friday night’s opening was vibrant and positive. Jenny Cook, one of the vendors, from Knuckle Down Farm, said that this was her first time “doing a local market in at least three years.” She sells her garden produce through CSA and on the farm and is pleased to be doing a ‘traditional veggie stand’.
Bancroft & Maynooth Farmers’ Markets
Further north, Bancroft and Maynooth Farmers’ Markets have opted to explore new ways of selling their produce. The Maynooth Farmers’ Market Facebook page lists dozens of vendors that you can contact. The Bancroft Farmers’ Market has also gone virtual; Angela Armstrong says that they are “holding off a little bit” this year because “opening like normal isn’t an option.” However, this market demonstrates tremendous resiliency and is working with several on-line platforms including Farmers’ Markets Ontario, Hastings County, and Open Food Network – to market local produce.
Armstrong also anticipates a few more pop-up roadside stands at the ends of driveways this summer. As well, Hastings Highlands E-Farmers’ Market & Co-operative offers an alternative way to buy locally grown food and other wares: “This site is for anyone to post & sell food they have produced. Any amount of product can be posted: swamped with zucchini? Got last years’ maple syrup? Barter is encouraged!”
Must-Visit Farm Stands
Landis Fruit Market
Many markets are open for business the old-fashioned way. Nelson Rohrer, the proprietor of Landis Fruit Market in Bancroft, says that they are “open and running as usual,” in part because they “fall under the guidelines of outdoor retail stores and operate much like grocery stores”. Rohrer says they are “fortunate”, and that business has been great.
In contrast, Switzer’s Farm, a small multi-generational family farm that grows fruits and vegetables, also located near Bancroft, has completely changed its way of doing business. Jarrett Switzer’s grandfather started the business in the 70’s and “after selling downtown for almost 45 years, offering produce for pick-up at the farm is entirely new!” This year they are offering “Produce Sacks” which can be ordered by Tuesday each week for weekend pickup and delivery. As well, they have made the decision to open their market on the farm effective early July; customers can now “drive up the farm driveway past the garden plot where the view is quite amazing.” The family is very excited and very positive about these changes.
Back Yard Produce
Back Yard Produce, owned and operated by Becky Van Esch for the past four years is open weekends and alternate weekdays when strawberries or corn are in abundance. Van Esch grows much of her own produce, but also works in partnership with the Amish for strawberries and corn, and she purchases asparagus from Willow Creek Farm because she believes strongly in having “everything local.”
Railway Creek Farm
Railway Creek Farm, owned and operated by Elly Finlayson, and located near Madoc, is operating in the same model of a weekly produce option . For the past fifteen years, Finlayson has grown garlic, but this year she decided to “reboot” and has added lettuces and other vegetables. You can order items through the Facebook site, Railway Creek Farm, and orders can be picked up at the farm, or in Madoc or Tweed.
Nansan Farms’ farm stand is located on Highway 37 near Plainfield (they also have a stand in Belleville). Wendy and Rob Smith grow much of the produce on their three farms which have been in the family and operational for almost 35 years. Rob says that “not much has changed for them” during COVID except that sanitation and distancing protocols are in place.
Insider Suggestion: Melrose Market Garden
Melrose Market Garden in Melrose, ON (just East of Belleville, ON) is a small farm that offers weekly orders and contactless pick-up at their farm stand. Owners, Kailey & Rich, along with their dog, Fender (the Morale Booster), established the farm in 2015 and believe in transparent farming practices – being open and honest about all inputs used on our farm. Rather than using synthetic fertilizers, GMOs or pesticides, they nourish the soil and plants with natural compost and use alternative methods of pest control. Follow their Facebook and Instagram page for weekly updates on what produce is freshly picked.
Farmers’ markets and farm stands are a reflection of the agriculture and gardening practices of communities. They connect food with place, farmer with consumer. Given our ‘growing’ passion for local food, together with the resilience and adaptability of our farmers, especially during the challenges of COVID farmers’ markets and their hybrid platforms continue to thrive.
For more locations on where to buy local produce and products, visit Harvest Hastings for listings across all of Hastings County.
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