The Wellesley Farmers’ Market is returning for another season to the open-air pavilion outside the Wellesley arena. As of Saturday, organizers will once again be bringing the fresh fruits of local labours straight to the heart of the village.
Scheduled to run each week until October 12, this year’s market will see a new twist on the standard formula, as the previously independent market has been brought under the auspices of the Wellesley North Easthope Agricultural Society, the organizers of the Wellesley Fall Fair, amongst other events in the township.
“We’re going into our sixth year, so we’re a fairly young market,” said Pamela Wideman, co-founder and a lead organizer for the Wellesley Farmers’ Market. “But we’re excited because this year’s a little different in that we recently merged with the Wellesley Agricultural Society.”
The merger will see the local farmers’ market become a fundraiser and booster for the not-for-profit ag. society, with fees collected from vendors now being put towards the group’s initiatives in the township.
For Wideman, joining the market with the ag. society made perfect sense, with the two sharing an overlapping set of goals. While the market is now being run under a new banner, Wideman will continue to run the day-to-day operations for the small market.
“I’ve always run the market in the past, and I’m still running the market. My husband and I are involved in the Wellesley Fall Fair, we’re on the agricultural society board. But we thought it would be a really great mix. Our mission statements are very similar, so the vision for both groups is very much bringing urban and rural together.”
Certainly, local rural producers are keen to connect with their more urban counterparts. The Wellesley Farmers’ Market saw an uptick in producer and vendor participation this year, with about 14 currently signed up over last year’s ten. It’s certainly a much smaller market than the likes of the neighbouring St. Jacobs market, but the smaller size offers both buyers and vendors distinct advantages.
For Amanda Carney, the Wellesley Farmers’ Market was where she was first able to kick start her career as a professional baker.
“Baking has always been my passion. I was always looking for a way to do more baking. I used to have a retail job and I wasn’t as happy there, so I really just wanted to get into the baking more. So that’s why I started myself,” explained Carney, who now works as a baker for The Garden Stand in New Hamburg.
Carney prepared her baked goods at home in the kitchen. However, farmers’ markets in Ontario often prohibit homemade food from being sold because of tight regulations requiring the food to be prepared in certified kitchens. A farmers’ market can become exempt from this regulation, but only if more than half the vendors at the market produce their own products.
Put another way, the majority of the vendors at a farmers’ market must grow what they are selling for the market to be exempt from the regulation
“Our market is a truly local and in-season market,” explained Wideman. “We do cap our numbers in order to receive an exemption through public health that allows us to have our vendors bring food from uncertified kitchens. So, for instance, if one of our Mennonite ladies wanted to bake a pie in her kitchen, she could do that. Whereas most markets you can’t.”
For Carney, who always had a love of baking and a talent for whipping up delicious desserts in her kitchen, the Wellesley Farmers’ Market proved to be exactly what she was looking for in an outlet for her creations.
Eventually, Carney’s baked goods stall caught the eye, or perhaps more correctly the taste buds, of chef Adam Brenner, the owner of The Garden Stand. Discovering Carney’s talents as a baker, Brenner hired her for his restaurant – and just like that, Carney was now a professional.
“It was hugely invaluable to me, yes,” said Carney of the Wellesley Farmers’ Market.
“It was a big, big, big thing to me. Without it, I’d still be working my retail job. I probably still would be miserable,” she added with a laugh.
This will be Carney’s fourth year participating in the Wellesley market, where she brings cinnamon rolls, muffins, macaroons, coffee and the like. Though she’s already landed her baking gig, Carney contends the market is a great place to raise awareness of The Garden Stand, and continue to meet with people and make connections.
“Even now, we still like to spread the word, so that’s the main reason why we go,” she said of her continued presence, along with Brenner.
The Wellesley Farmers’ Market will be running every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon starting June 8. Besides Carney’s baked goods, market-goers can expect a variety of in-season fruits and vegetables on sale; honey, maple syrup, meats, and lemonade, courtesy of sibling team of young entrepreneurs behind the When Life Hands You Lemons stand.
To mark the merger with the ag. society, there will be a grand re-opening ceremony at this week’s market at 9:30 a.m., with a ribbon-cutting event and cake to celebrate, along with live music by Stephen Todd.