You have to be there by 8:30 am. I know its summer and you want to sleep in on your Saturday mornings, but to get the good stuff you have to be there by 8:30 am.
I love the proliferation of Farmer’s Markets. While most of us still do the bulk of our shopping at big supermarkets, more and more of us are choosing to do some of our shopping at local farmers markets. It’s fun to meet the artisans and farmers who make and grow our food. It feels good to make the connection. We can also find much more variety of ingredients, from funny looking tomatoes to carrots that aren’t orange to herbs that you might not know what to do with. In Winnipeg, you used to have only one option, St. Norbert Farmers Market. St. Norbert is still the biggest market. It operates on Saturday Mornings in the Summer and a smaller version on Wednesday afternoons. It also operates an indoor market in the winter months. But now you can visit a different market almost any day of the week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays you can visit the Wolseley Farmers market, on monday nights you can go to the Transcona market. Thursday’s you can also visit the Downtown market at the Hydro building. Just this week I discovered the South Osborne Farmer’s market. This market featured veggies that were grown less than a mile away at the Riverview communal gardens. It was also the first market I’ve been to that featured local brewers. Have a beer while you shop? Yes, please. Another great market is the one hosted by Pineridge Hollow every Saturday Morning. Go for breakfast, tour Jan’s gardens, take a walk in the park and take home a trunk full of locally grown veggies. There are also a number of markets scattered around small town Manitoba. For a listing, check out http://www.directfarmmanitoba.ca
But my favourite farmers market is the Arnes Farmer’s Market. They call it “The Happy Place” and almost every saturday morning in the summer you will find me in my happy place. Born out of the fertile soil of Dennis Bobrovich’s creative mind, this farmer’s market is far more than just a collection of food vendors. Dennis has converted his family farm into a living work of art. The market stalls are fashioned from found objects, old trees, boat bottoms, camper tops and reclaimed wood. He has stripped and shellacked dead trees to create a surreal landscape. He has gardens, pigs, goats and chickens on his property. He has an old station wagon that looks like it was converted into either a smoker or a still for making moonshine. A brightly painted school bus is his billboard advertising his market. This year, he has added a flintstones themed playground with hand made wooden play structures. An old tree, roots still attached forms his swing set. This market is busy, by eleven the overflow parking lot has overflown onto the highway and cars will line the ditches.
I like to get there by 8:30 am. I will yell at my family to get them out of bed and into the car still wiping sleep from their eyes. More often than not, I give up and leave without them. If I bring back tasty treats, I know they will forgive me. The market doesn’t open until 9:00, but I always like to start with a walk around. See who is out and what the have to sell. I make a mental plan. First, doughnuts. This is always the longest line up. Simple, glazed doughnuts made fresh that morning. And they always sell out. If you get there early enough they will still be warm. The doughnut vendor also sells home baked breads, butter tarts, pies, cookies and bars. Then you have to beetle across to the perogy ladies. I like the sauerkraut filled ones, but for my kids it’s the bacon and potato or cheddar and potato, and those two are always the first to sell out. Once you have those two items taken care of, you can relax a little.
If you haven’t had breakfast, the market sells tasty breakfast sandwiches or you can grab a dozen spring rolls from the spring roll people. They are new this year and they make a pork and veggie and a shrimp spring roll. They also sell meat on sticks, which is always good. While eating your breakfast you can listen to the music of the resident busker. This man knows every song ever written, from sixties classics to acoustic versions of today’s hits, you will have a hard time resisting the urge to sing along. Be sure to throw some coins in his guitar case.
Now, its time to get your veggies. There are three large veggie purveyors. Because you have done your walk about, you will know who has what. You will have to get your potatoes from one, your kale from another and your cauliflower from the third. You will also notice, that most of the other vendors, will have some kind of fresh produce to offer. I always wind up at Boundary Creek Farms. They are an organic CSA farm and they come out to Arnes every weekend to sell what ever they have left. They always have a great selection of greens: swiss chard, kale, arugula and sometimes mizuna. They all have delicious onions, fresh garlic, herbs, beets and colourful carrots. I often buy one of everything, and my goal is always to be their biggest customer of the day.
New this year is the Whisky Road Farm. Just down the road from the old Seagram’s plant, they raise chickens, pig and lambs on an organic farm. There are as few good bakers to buy bread from, be sure to visit the jam lady for tasty preserves and pickles. You can also pick up some local honey. If you are hankering a sweet treat, visit the fudge guy. Arnes is more than just about food. In the old barn there is a great antique dealer.Under the tent there is a used book store. There is a wide range of crafters, from hand spun pottery to jewellery to furniture. You also pick up some of Denis’s own hand carved wooden pieces.
You probably have your favourite places to shop for local fare. Maybe you are a St. Norbert loyalist, maybe you like St. Leon’s or Crampton’s, maybe it’s your neighbourhood market, but you need to make a point of driving north to Arnes. It is fun, whimsical and sure to inspire. Maybe it will become your happy place.