Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2022/ Farmer's Market Decline

Farmer's Market Decline

I still depend upon the Kitchener's Farmer's Market for my weekly groceries, but it really has been hit hard. COVID has been one factor, but there have been other casualties.

There are a lot fewer vendors than there were pre-pandemic. In the winter, I can see that several vendors (Fleetwood Farms, Gmach Gardens) have expanded to multiple tables. Most of the vendors I typically frequent are hanging on, which is a relief.

Unfortunately for me, there has been one notable loss. There was an old grumpy guy named Dennis who used to coordinate a couple of stalls at the market. I don't know for surem but looks as if the operation may have been Westbrook Produce. Dennis died, and there was a big memorial for him. Then the stalls disappeared, which surprised me since there were several people (including another coordinator named Sean?) who also disappeared. They were not farmers themselves, but I believe they bought a lot of produce (peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers) from the Elmira Produce Auction, and often you could get good deals on seconds. In the summer they also sold the most delicious yellow watermelons, as well as fairly delicious cantaloupes. I thought of Westbrook Produce this week at the Market, when I saw bundles of English cucumbers for $5. The Westbrook people used to sell those same bundles for $2 or $3.

Other vendors have closed down too. Norris Bakery closed for good, and the Bread and Bretzel Basket in Waterloo looks like they have not been around for weeks. There are some ridiculously expensive bakeries standing, but in terms of affordable bread there is only one bakery left -- a small operation on the ridiculous platform of the inner market. I do not know how long they will stick around. Under no circumstances should I be eating pastries or bread, but when I give in I would prefer to spend my money on affordable local bakeries than commercial ones.

In these COVIDy times the market seems much emptier. I am not surprised. I am frightened of crowds these days, and from time to time I will skip the market entirely because I do not want to risk infection. Unfortunately this means the vendors suffer.

The 100-Mile Diet was written in 2007, and local food is no longer trendy. But I think it is important, and I think we are starting to see why. The local food vendors at the Market are expensive, but they are still cheaper than grocery store prices, and (unlike the selection at FreshCo) I have some trust that the quality is good. Furthermore, it is possible to buy seconds from the market, which is why I can afford to eat carrots. I do not trust that California will continue being the bread basket of North America, and meanwhile Southern Ontario has some of the most arable farmland in the world. It is insane for those farmers to give up and sell their land to suburban developers, and that is exactly what we are facing. Buying cabbages and potatoes from local vendors is not going to solve that problem, but my hope is that it will help.

I am spoiled now. I have very little desire to buy any fresh produce from a grocery store now. If the Market folds I don't know what I will do.