Farmers’ markets have something new on tap: craft beer.
Local craft brewers are now permitted to open a stand and sell their products at any of the province’s farmers markets.
The announcement came last Friday at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, where Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris played host to Lisa Thompson, minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and Attorney General Doug Downey.
“We have more than 49,600 farmers across the province growing 200 different commodities and more than 4,400 food processors making delicious food and beverages, and we’re seeing that loop right here at the St. Jacobs market. We also have passionate entrepreneurs making exceptional wine, ciders, spirits and beer right here at home in Ontario and using locally grown ingredients – craft cideries use locally grown Ontario apples, distillers use Ontario corn and a variety of other local grains to make their products, wine makers use Ontario grapes to make world wide VQA wines and Ontario-grown hops are used,” said Thompson.
The pairing of craft beer with farmers markets enables consumers to buy more locally produced beverages as well as providing more jobs for the industry that was hit hard by the pandemic.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, local brewers, ciders, and distillers were thriving, but now we are looking at recovery and, going forward, creating well-paid, meaningful jobs in communities across the province,” said Thompson.
“Our government is taking the necessary steps to provide these local businesses with support they need to recover while ensuring agricultural and good local jobs are maintained. We’re supporting our farmers, we’re supporting our manufacturers and our local businesses, our environment, as well as our economy by buying local. This is critically important to us and it’s going to be important to our recovery going forward.”
The announcement was greeted by Scott Simmons, president of Ontario Craft Brewers, who said he has noticed the economic impact the pandemic has had on the industry and is hopeful the new policy will help brewers to recover.
“The sense of community is at the heart of Ontario’s craft beer industry that is why allowing craft breweries to sell their products at local farmers’ markets, like this one here in St. Jacobs, is such a natural fit. This change could not come at a more critical time for our sector; local craft breweries were among the first in our province to feel the economic impact of COVID-19. Farms, restaurants, tap rooms were all closed, live music was cancelled, tourism was halted across the province,” noted Simmons.
“The response of this government to make changes to support our industry through this difficult time has simply been outstanding. As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, allowing the sale of craft beer at farmers’ markets has been key to helping breweries recover. We have heard from many brewers that having a stall at the farmers’ market is like having another retail store. It’s also a great next step in providing real choice for Ontario consumers and a new retail opportunity for craft brewers at a critical time for our sector.”
If the full brewing process happens in Ontario, the brewers are permitted to sell their products at the markets. The breweries will be expected to uphold standards set for alcohol sales, including, minimum age of purchase, mandatory staff training and minimum retail prices. This announcement is part of the government’s commitment to support Ontario brewers and help them respond to COVID-19 impacts.
“These are really exciting announcements. I’m glad were able to have Minister Thompson and Minister Downey come and join us at the largest farmers’ market in Canada to really reaffirm our government’s commitment to look at new ways of opening business channels for cideries and craft breweries – it helps create jobs, and of course gives better choice for consumers,” said Harris. “We’ve got some great craft brewers in the area – we’ve got Block 3 right here in St. Jacobs and Rural Roots up in Elmira. We’ve got Stockyard, we’ve got Four Fathers, we’ve got Fixed Gear that’s here from Guelph and also Wellington Brewery. We’ve got many other fantastic breweries here in the region.
“I think that people are really looking to shop more local, the pandemic has shone a light on being able to support local businesses. Anytime we can help them do business better, celebrate them, and give consumers more choice and make it easier for them to come pick up a six-pack here at the market, it’s all good news.”