After a long winter, the Elmira Farmers’ Market is returning to town for another season. Starting this Saturday, consumers from both near and far will be able to enjoy the homegrown fruits of the township’s labours.
For Allan and Laurene Martin, who have been organizing the weekly event for the past 15 years, the market is very much a staple of Elmira, bringing in tourist dollars while providing an outlet to local producers and adding to the township’s rural character.
“It’s a community event,” said Allan Martin, who is one of the three people on the organizing committee. “It took a lot of working together to make this happen and it’s the best thing for everyone in Elmira. It helps draw people
into the community.”
It was the value of the market that first brought the Martins to offer their wares there, and it was its value to the township that kept them on to help out.
“So 14 years ago this year we stepped out front to see if we could be a leader, not knowing where it was going to go,” said Martin. “But we’ve managed to stay alive and we’ve grown the market. … In the first five years that we were open, we more than quadrupled the amount of people going through there, and every year we see more and more new faces coming through.”
Laurene Martin, meanwhile, notes the diversity of customers that attend, from local regulars to out-of-town shoppers.
“We have more and more people, it’s not just local people, but we have regulars coming from Kitchener-Waterloo, and we even have some come regular from Barrie. And just all over people that have caught on that this market has local produce only, they can be assured it’s local,” said Laurene, who helps her husband with the organizing but also runs her own bakery stand.
This year, another three new vendors are joining the market. The number of vendors joining and leaving the market has fluctuated over the years, notes Martin. Growing the operation while keeping it authentic and local has always been a challenge, he admits, but on the whole the market has continued to thrive.
“That’s the beauty of the Elmira Farmers’ Market. People come and go, you don’t necessarily have set vendors years and years and years on end,” said Martin. Some of the big changes to have come about was last year’s partnership with the Taste of Woolwich, which he notes has grown the interest in the market amongst vendors.
“In the 14 years that I’ve been the manager of it, that was at times the harder problem to deal with: how to encourage new vendors coming in.”
“But last year for the first time, we collaborated with the Taste of Woolwich event with our farmers’ market, and it opened the eyes to a lot of people what was actually going on there. And I think that helped us in gaining some more interested parties in coming out to be with us this year. We’re very excited this season.”
Another big change planned this year is that the market is extending its hours, says Martin, running from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. instead of 1 p.m. The extra half-an-hour is being added to better line up the timing with the wagon rides offered in St. Jacobs and the trains, giving visitors who arrive in the afternoon rides more time to enjoy the Elmira market at their leisure.
The Elmira Farmers’ Market will be starting up this Saturday, May 5, and run each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the parking lot off Maple Street. What’s on offer will, of course, be dependent on the time of season, and the selection will grow in time with the harvest. The market will start off a bit slow, notes Laurene, but will definitely pick up steam as we head into the warmer months.
“Very, very soon we’ll have fresh radishes and stuff that they might grow in the greenhouse. And it’ll just take a couple of weeks and we’ll have fresh rhubarb and asparagus out of the garden because that’s the first thing, rhubarb and asparagus, and as soon as gets a little bit warm they grow so fast,” she explained.