While larger farmers’ markets such as St. Jacobs might steal the limelight, the Elmira market quietly celebrated its 10th anniversary last weekend.
Located on Maple Street and tucked in a parking lot behind the new township office, the market sets up every Saturday morning from the first weekend in May to the last weekend of October. What began as a one-off experiment initiated by the Elmira Business Improvement Area back in 2002 has grown into one of the town’s best-kept secrets.
“I can hardly believe we’ve been here for 10 years,” said Laurene Martin last Saturday.
Martin and her husband Alan are just one of two vendors who have been at the market since its inception.
“We’ve had some great community support, or we wouldn’t be here anymore. We’ve had some ups and downs over the years but it’s the consumers that have kept us here.”
After getting their start in 2002, the group ran into insurance problems at their location in the parking lot behind what is now the Bargain Shop. The Home Hardware store heard of their problems and offered up some of their land for the stalls. They’ve called that parking lot home ever since and have been running full-time since 2003.
They had about 10 vendors that first season, a number that has ebbed and flowed over the years. Currently they attract about 15 vendors full-time, with another handful who come only at certain times of the season to sell their strawberries, corn, or other seasonal fare.
“Some tried it and moved on, while new ones come on all the time,” said Martin, who sells baking and preserves from her family’s stall.
The market has a large range of products, offering not only produce but home baking, flowering plants, trees, handmade items, pork, chicken, and beef. Starting last year for the first time, dairy products including cheese and eggs are available.
When the market shuts down for the winter months a three-person committee plans for the next season and talks have often turned to how they can attract more customers. While they could make the market larger if they wanted to, organizers fear it would take away from the true nature of why they started in the first place.
“We could expand and make it more of a flea market, but that’s not what we want. You must make it, bake it, or grow it. That’s our motto. That way we keep it local.
“If everyone in Elmira came, we couldn’t support them all.”
They currently attract shoppers from across the region, and even from areas outside of Waterloo, who are drawn to the quaint nature of the market rather than the larger markets that are very busy on a Saturday morning.
“Some come from Kitchener and bypass St. Jacobs market for Elmira. It’s a little quieter, a little smaller, and they know it’s local.”
As part of their 10th anniversary they offered sausage on a bun with all proceeds going to local food banks, as well as wagon rides.
Foodlink also launched its 11th annual Buy Local! Buy Fresh! map at the market last Saturday morning as part of the anniversary, and it includes information on upwards of 70 local farms and farmers markets. Copies of the map can be found at local libraries, as well as food retailers and restaurants across the region.
The market runs every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and for more information on the Foodlink maps visit www.foodlink.ca.