New federal funding will help the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market extend their season beyond the prime summer months.
A $100,000 grant from Ottawa’s tourism relief fund was used to purchase four shipping containers that will act as shelter for up to eight vendors during the winter months that see a drop in the number of visitors to the market.
The project was lauded at a presentation November 10 by Kitchener-Conestoga MP Tim Louis.
“Tourism was one of the most deeply affected sectors during the COVID pandemic.…The farmers’ market is a resilient and much-loved landmark in the region that dates back to the 1950s. … The St. Jacobs market is more than a place where the sweet aroma of baked goods welcome you. It’s a place where people come from near and far. It’s a place where tourism, hospitality and the arts all exist harmoniously. It’s a place where you build a team of community. So I’m very proud to bring this investment to St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market,” Louis said.
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“It will allow our incredible farmers, artisans and vendors to serve Waterloo Region during off-season months, and remain a pillar in our community all year round.”
According to market general manager Joanna Loebach, of the 40,000 people that attend the market weekly during the summer, 10 per cent come from outside of Canada and 11 per cent from outside of the province. Some 31 per cent came from points more than an hour away.
“This however, is contrasted with the five to six months of the year when tourism slows down. Most of our farmers pack up for the year. And as a result, our local guests come less frequently. That’s specifically what this grant is doing for the market: These shipping containers are going to allow us to develop our offerings in the shoulder seasons. They will be used to house up to eight food and artisan vendors year-round, providing them much-needed protection from the elements,” Loebach said.
The funding was also used to expand outside overhead lighting at the market.
“This is part of our longer-term strategy to provide more reasons for locals as well as people from outside of the area to come to the farmers market outside of that peak growing season,” Loebach said.
The funding will help with the recovery from the pandemic-led economic downturn, noted Vaughn Bender, vice-president of real estate and land development for Schlegel Urban Developments, which owns the market.
“The past number of years have been…tough on our much-valued farmers, market community and the hundreds of small businesses and entrepreneurs who bring high quality local food and local crafts and products to the Woolwich community, regular customers from across the region and visitors from across the province,” he said.
“The district is recovering well from the past few years thanks to all of your support, and the future is very bright. And today’s announcement is very much assisting in that exciting future.”
The market will be expanding its night market events, including the first of two Holiday Sip n’ Shop events tomorrow (November 18) from 4-9 p.m.
In an interview following the announcement, Loebach explained the market looked at other shelter options, including a covered pavilion, however the shipping containers were more in line with their long-term plan.
“Our…plan is to connect the farmers’ market property with the property across the street, the St. Jacobs Outlet Mall, where we have a development going on there, where we’re converting it to a restaurant and a brewery. This is going to be that sort of connecting road, so having the shipping containers on the other side of our dominant market building is really helping to really define that space,” she said.
Vendor Jeremy MacDonald of New Leaf Market Garden said this is the first year he has wanted to sell at the market in November.
“I was worried about the produce freezing, so this shelter would really help make sure things don’t freeze on me…. Last November selling from the farm, I would have things start to freeze in their containers within a couple hours – if it’s below zero, it’s harsh. So this does give a little bit of protection, which is nice,” he said.