Last Monday, we awoke to the startling news that our community’s extremely popular (and Canada’s largest) year-round market had burned to the ground. You can see the story here: http://www.therecord.com/news-story/4058940-fire-destroys-st-jacobs-market-building/
Packed with food and craft vendors, this market was an important source of income for local farmers and artisans, a tourist destination, a family tradition for many, and a source of pride for the community. Market days were always teeming with people. Fortunately, given the timing of the fire, no one was hurt. Fire crews were able to stop the fire from spreading to the other buildings and areas that house animals.
As the day wore on, I watched people’s reactions on Twitter and Facebook. Initial waves of shock and sadness were replaced by stories and memories from the market. Gradually, the messages turned to ones of hope. People started sharing ideas and solutions, providing alternative locations for vendors, and commenting on the strength of community spirit. Everyone began to realize that the market had nothing to do with the building, but everything to do with the people.
Of course, many artisans lost valuable goods in the fire, and there is no denying this was a very devastating fire for a lot of people. Sometimes though, when these things happen, it serves as a good reminder of the strength of a community, and how people come together in difficult times.
Only three days later, the outdoor portion of the market still opened next to the charred remains of the building. Premier Kathleen Wynne attended. People are determined to re-build, and with the outpouring of community support, everyone knows it will happen quickly.
Farm markets serve an important purpose. They provide access to fresh local foods, often not available in chain grocery stores (which are bound by contracts in order to attain year-round produce from distant suppliers). They provide community connections, and allow customers to communicate directly with the people who grow or bake the food. The economic, health, and social benefits to buying local foods are rather difficult to dispute, but the quality and freshness of the produce should be reason enough for anyone. I also like the idea that farm markets can help teach my kids that food doesn’t grow on grocery store shelves. Here is a link that can help you find local food if you live nearby: http://www.foodlink.ca/
Fortunately for me, the big market is not the one I usually frequent. There is a smaller farm market closer to my house, which is far less busy. I have enjoyed taking my son there this summer, and have been bringing home ridiculous amounts of corn twice a week since harvest started. At the market, the people are friendly, the food is good, and the atmosphere is warm and inviting.
Long live the farm market!