I've lived all over the world but it wasn't until I lived in Denver, CO (and spent my weekends in Boulder, a town nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains just 45 minutes away) that I learned to appreciate "farmers markets". During the summer months I would go to the outdoor markets and stock my fridge for the week with farm fresh ingredients (i.e., fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, and dairy), deliciously prepared foods, and handmade goods sourced locally (i.e., soaps and lotions, handmade arts and crafts). It wasn't until recently that I ventured to the Calgary Farmers' Market, visiting two businesses featured on SixFootCanasian.com who have a space there, to better understand why it's a regular weekend destination for many Calgarians.
Why I Choose to Buy Local
As you may have already noticed from my blog ... I support local entrepreneurs and Calgarians working hard to make a difference in their communities. Farmers markets are essentially doing the same thing by providing local vendors with an opportunity to bring the freshest goods to people looking for "farm to table" quality. These markets provide a place where local vendors get to meet their customers, answer questions, get real feedback and see how their business is making a difference in their community. Buyers can feel good about knowing exactly where their purchases are coming from, picking from the freshest seasonal fare that is hard to find at any big box grocery store, and supporting the local economy by keeping Alberta dollars in our province. To be honest, I like buying products that:
- Come straight from the source
- Don't use unnecessary additives or preservatives
- Aren't affected by extensive handling and transport (i.e., refrigeration or freezing)
- Are unique to Alberta
- Come from a business that I can call (at any time) if I have a question
Breaking (some of) the Rules - Calgary Farmers' Market
When I first came to the Calgary Farmers' Market it WASN'T what I expected! First of all, when I typically visit any farmers market, I assume the following:
- It's located outdoors (and may get cancelled if the weather isn't cooperating).
- It's only open during the summer months (i.e., summer in Canada), only on Saturday and/or Sunday, and only for a portion of the day (4 to 6 hours).
- You are never completely sure WHO will be there from weekend to weekend (but keep your fingers crossed).
- You have to get there first thing in the morning (to secure a parking spot and to get stuff before it sells out).
- You have to bring CASH ONLY.
- There are NO bathrooms.
To my surprise I pulled up to a 65,000 sq.ft. facility, conveniently located off of Blackfoot Trail and north of Heritage Drive, with lots of free parking and amenities that make it more of a public market than any farmers market I've ever been to! It's home to over 70 vendors who apply to rent a space in the market to sell goods that they either "make, bake, or grow". Open from Thursday to Sunday (9:00am to 5:00pm) every week, this market welcomes an average of 20,000 visitors who get to enjoy a truly local shopping experience in the comfort of a beautiful environment designed for families (i.e., lots of bathrooms, a large seating area, wide aisles and a playground area for the kids).
One Stop Shopping for the Perfect Thanksgiving Feast
This weekend was especially busy at the market as Calgarians were getting ready to "gobble" up some delicious food with friends and family around the Thanksgiving table. People from all across the city came to get the freshest ingredients for their festive gatherings including:
- Meats and main dishes (from Bauer Meats, Heart's Choices, Market Seafood, Silver Sage Beef, and Spragg's Meat Shop)
- Fruits and vegetables (from Blush Lane Organics, the Cherry Pit, Innisfail Growers, Lund's Organic Farm, and Souto Farms)
- Appetizers and treats (from Beeland Market, Going Nuts, Jelly Modern Doughnuts, Orchid Pastry, Papa Chocolat, Sylvan Star Cheese, Silk Road Spice Merchant, Soffritto, Totalitea, and Yum Bakery)
- Gifts for the "unselfish" hosts (from Crafted, Field Stone Fruit Wines, Flowers at the Market, and Knifewear)
After a few hours wandering around the market I ended up with an iPhone filled with new images (that you can check out on our social media using the icons at the top of the page).
The Adventure Continues at the Calgary Farmer's Market
This weekend I was on a mission to get everything I needed for an epic Thanksgiving feast ... and succeeded. But ... I went home knowing that I didn't even get to venture into the food court for some delicious food and treats from amazing local vendors. I have to make it back in a few weeks (after I work off all the extra calories I've accumulated over the past 24 hours) to strategically eat my way through the different tastes and textures from around the world. UNTIL NEXT TIME!
(This post was originally published on www.sixfootcanasian.com on October 12, 2015)