METCALFE — Despite social distancing, masking and lower capacity, Ontario’s Farmers’ Markets enjoyed a successful 2020. As their season begins for 2021, expectations are even higher.
There’s a couple of reasons to be optimistic, according to Philip Powell, advisor to Farmers’ Markets Ontario. COVID restrictions mean people have more time on their hands and with so many activities closed for months, the market is a great outing and the demand for local, fresh food just keeps growing.
Of the 200 Ontario farmers’ markets, 32 did not open in 2020. Only 20 farmers’ markets are not expected to open this year Powell said.
Andy Teraud, of Acorn Creek Garden Farm at Carp, agrees that this year will be better than last year. A staple at the Ottawa Farmer’s Market, Teraud is finding customers are buying with their palette instead of their wallet. “They have figured out that fresh tastes better.”
Acorn Creek has a huge selection of fruits, vegetables and bedding plants. The forecast for farmer’s markets is looking rosy for this summer and could be even bigger when COVID restrictions subside. People are embracing the local farmer and markets as a better option than the grocery store. “They will always beat us at price”, accord- ing to Teraud, “but they can’t beat us on taste.”
Linda Bergeron, of Linda Garden, supplies a full range of fresh herbs, flowers, hanging baskets and vegetables at many farmer’s markets. 2020 was a great year for her and she says it’s just going to get better. “Everybody wanted to support local,” she said
KIN Vineyards in Carp is going into it’s fourth year at farmer’s markets and expects 2021 to surpass last year. “We thought it would be miserable but it was quite good,” said owner Shaun McEwen. “It’s one stop shop- ping. You pick up some local produce, some baking and some wine.” Under COVID restrictions, alcohol consumption spiked.
The 2021 provincial budget is paving the way for Ontario’s craft brewers and distillers to also sell their wares at farmers markets, which has Mark Watson of Dunrobin Distilleries excited. “Because of COVID we’ve been reduced to only selling online, he said. “(The farmer’s market) is an important distribution channel for us.”
In rural Ottawa, the Metcalfe Farmer’s Market opened to a great turnout according to market manager, Reann Slater. “It was fantastic. We had seven new vendors and about 1,500 people come through. People are supporting local and want to support local.”
And everybody loves an outing.