Get fresh with the locals

Take advantage of home-grown goodness at the market just east of the main strip

Grand Bend Farmers’ Market
Gill Road Parking Lot
Wednesdays until October
8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Story and Photos by Casey Lessard

If you want a little taste of Europe, head to the Grand Bend Farmers’ Market Wednesday morning. Sure, there are no cobble stone streets, but the Gill Road parking lot market can easily compare for the quality of food products available for sale. Plus, you don’t have to fly all the way to Europe for the experience.
“I love it,” says Elaine Ste. Marie, who enjoys being reminded of her visits to farmers’ markets in Europe, where she lived for seven years. “Last year I must have bought flowers every week.”
Staying home is also good for the environment.
“All of this food product has traveled very little distance,” says Christine Bregman of the Health Nut, who was shopping for flowers. “There’s more food value in locally grown foods. If I have to choose, I choose local. Local organic is optimum. Local is next. Then organic after that.”
There’s also the direct benefit of buying from the grower.
“It’s a better profit for our farmers and neighbours,” she says, “and the fact is the quality is better.”
Expertise is also the market’s strong suit.
“I can tell people what variety of asparagus they’re buying,” says vendor Melody Arnhold. “Then there’s the advantage of incredible freshness – we picked this morning and are selling it today.”
Market manager Doug Smaill notes there are key economic benefits.
“A study was done by Farmers’ Markets of Ontario and found that for every dollar spent at a farmers’ market, $3 was spent in town on supplemental products. That might be a meal at a local restaurant or whipped cream for berries. Our farmers brought in $100,000 last year so we figure that translated into $300,000 for local businesses.”
This is the second year for the market, but already there are hopes it will become a permanent fixture with a roof over the vendors’ heads. That would help keep the food even fresher and prevent the vendors and customers from wilting, too. Anywhere from 700 to 1,000 visitors go through the market each week in the summer.

The basics

What is available: Fresh local produce, meats, flowers, honey, baked goods, organic products and some crafts.
Bring cash: no machines here, but ATMs nearby at TD Canada Trust or Bank of Montreal.
When to come: If you like it busy, 10:30 a.m. is the peak time. “The locals come here after getting their mail and going to the bank,” market manager Doug Smaill says. But if you want only the freshest food, get there bright and early. Some of the produce is picked that morning and brought straight to the market.