Christine Whelan FEO, May 25, VOL. 4 ISSUE 20
It’s a sure sign of spring when the Stevensville Farmers’ Market is open for the season, delighting residents and visitors with just-picked produce, farm specialties, locally produced baked goods, maple syrup, honey, cheeses, and ciders. The market will also feature handmade artisan and craft products.
Mary-Lou Ambrose-Little, Market Manager, is calling on the community to come out and support the market, saying the support is very crucial this year.
“People did a wonderful job coming out during COVID because we were the only game in town. What we did notice last year, for whatever reason, people weren’t out to the market as much as they were in the past.”
Mary-Lou shared that, on a good day last year, they had 150 people come through the market, compared to during the pandemic seasons when the market saw anywhere between 400-500 walkthroughs. Even before the pandemic, the numbers were higher than last year. “And that’s a concern.”
She admitted that the weather was an issue. “Our market is in the afternoon so on good days, it can be quite hot and few want to come out in the heat. And then last year, there were 5 or 6 Wednesdays with rain and high winds.”
The market, located outside the Memorial Community Hall, 2508 Stevensville Road, will be every Wednesday from 2:00-6:00 pm, beginning May 24 and running until October 4. 2023.
“We postponed the transition over to the Village Church as more time is needed. The Conservation Club was fine with keeping it going one more year.”
The Church volunteers will be at the market all season this year to get an idea of what their roles will be. “They will also have a table at the market for their own fundraising for summer camps and other community programs.”
“We are having the same problem as is everywhere right now — volunteers.” She added that the Conservation Club is an exception. She has eight volunteers from the club still helping with the market.
For those who have recently moved to the area looking for that small-town experience, volunteering is a great way to get involved with your new community and feel a sense of belonging and purpose. Volunteering at a farmers’ market is a wonderful way to meet many people in a down-to-earth, small-town environment. It is the epitome of small-town living.
Market Dynamics: A Social Affair vs. Grab and Go
Mary-Lou also runs the Port Colborne Farmers’ Market. She commented that last Saturday, over 600 people came to that market. Many stood around socializing, seeing people they hadn’t seen in a while.
“People who come to the market, come for different reasons. Some people are what we call walkabouts. It’s a great thing to schedule into your day.”
She talked about a woman she knows who does the farmers’ market circuit every week. “She goes to a market every day.”
The Stevensville Market, because of its day and time, has a different dynamic. “I call it the Stevensville Grab and Go Market. Nobody really sticks around long. They’re kind of in between things. They grab what they want and they take off,” maybe on their way home from work to start supper, for example.
“We have a couple of new vendors. We have a farmer with a business, Ginger Bug Brewery. They are coming to the Stevensville Market from Owen Sound.” She added that brewery companies are now counted as farming companies.
Another new business, Superior Meats, selling deli meats and cheeses, is coming from Barrie. Mary Lou introduces, “They were immigrants, settling in Barrie. The family set up their business when they first came to Canada about 30 years ago. This is what they do all summer. They go to markets and sell their products. I’m happy they found us. It means we’re getting more exposure.”
“The local farmers are still coming. There may be a couple of farmers who aren’t coming every week.” The Stevensville Farmers’ Market Facebook Page has posted a list of vendors including sponsors, farmers’ market vendors, and marketplace vendors.
“We’re still looking for anyone local who has a hobby farm or a small farm operation and is interested in getting involved with the market.” The Market Manager stated they are 10 farmers and would like to get up to 15 farmers.
“If there’s one good thing that came from COVID is that people have discovered Niagara.” Mary-Lou explained, “For years, the main reason people came down to Niagara was for the falls. Now they’ve discovered our beaches. They heard about beaches that had no charges. They’ve discovered the farmers’ markets. They’ve discovered some of the private operations in Niagara. Many weren’t aware before.”
According to Mary-Lou, during the years of pandemic restrictions, people took weekend drives to replace longer trips and many found themselves in the unexplored South Niagara.
She talked about a few regulars who visit the market every year as a part of their vacation agenda. “They make a point of coming to the Stevensville Market because they love it.”
The key attraction to the area, “There’s space. All the people from cities have realized that there is space in Niagara. And they don’t have to be right on top of one another.”
What is a Farmers’ Market?
Mary-Lou explained a farmers’ market is a community-based operation, whether it’s run by a municipality, a BIA, a service club, or a church. They have to serve the public.
“To qualify as an Ontario Farmers’ Market, 51% of the vendors need to be farmers and anyone producing farm products such as jams, jellies, cheeses, and anything handmade like clothing. It can now be any sort of alcoholic product.”
Also included would be anyone who is providing food service at the market using farm products in their items. “If it’s produced or processed on a farm, it qualifies.”
What is not included are the multi-level marketing (MLM) groups and direct sales companies like Norwex, Pampered Chef, or any other franchise.
The Market Manager added that marketplaces and hand-made markets are private enterprises that do not qualify under the Ontario Farmers’ Market Standards
Market Bags Are Back
“We have our market bags again this year. All of Stevensville and Black Creek are being offered the opportunity to provide business items that can be put in the bag for the market people, whether it’s a coupon, a sample, or something like a flyer announcing a community event. We need 100 items to start. The material can be dropped off at Fena Insurance on the corner of Main and Stevensville Roads.”
Mary-Lou has asked those coming to the market to please, not park along the road. “There is parking in the back. There will be signs up to show people where to park.”
Black Creek Marketplace
The Lighthouse Restaurant on the Parkway at 4301 Niagara Parkway has started a Sunday market. Mary-Lou is helping them out. “There’s a clothing store, a variety store and they’ve invited some of the Stevensville and Ridgeway market vendors to come on Sunday afternoon and set up.
“It’s a marketplace. There are two farmers, but it would not meet Farmers’ Market Ontario Standards. It’s more like a tourism market, for lack of a better term to describe it. We’re trying to attract people who are travelling along the Niagara Parkway on the weekends, whether it be driving, biking, or walking.”
The Lighthouse, according to Mary-Lou, is about halfway between the center of Fort Erie and Niagara Falls, and when people like to take a break, the restaurant is in a good spot so they’re trying this marketplace.
For any questions or to register as a Stevensville Farmers’ Market vendor, you can reach Mary-Lou and the market team at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo of previous year provided by Mary-Lou Ambrose-Little