Moving On Up: The St. John’s Farmers’ Market May Be on Its Way to Bigger Digs.
By Meghan McCabe
“The board has been looking for a new space for years,” says Josh Smee, chair of the St. John’s Farmers’ Market board.
Now it looks like there is a viable option.
The co-operative is going to vote soon on whether or not they want to work on making the move a reality, as a potential new home was only really verified last month.
That’s when a feasibility study was released, on whether or not the old city-owned Metrobus depot on Freshwater Road could host the St. John’s Farmer’s Market.
And it said yes!
The farmer’s market is currently housed in fairly close – and seasonal – quarters at the Lion’s Club Chalet on Bonaventure Avenue, taking up less than 3,000 square feet. This move could give them close to three times that much space.
“The City came to us early last year, as they were decommissioning the building,” says Smee, and many people with both the City and the Market were pleased with the study’s results.
Councillor Tom Hann, chair of the city’s Planning Committee, says it could be a great fit. “The proposed new community market could be conceived as a centre city refurbishment reflective of the directions set out in the draft Municipal Plan and would include space for teaching and community activities and gatherings as well,” Hann said in the City of St. John’s press release.
Smee says they’ve been happy at the Lion’s Chalet, and will be there for at least the next two seasons regardless of how this vote goes, but they could use more space – and maybe more permanence than the weekly June to December set up the Chalet offers.
The roughly 50-year-old Metrobus depot has been vacant since the new one was opened last year, and the idea in development would see the market take up some of the garage space, meaning easy access for getting stuff in there – and wide open space for shoppers to move around.
“So things like permanent booths for people who want to make a more serious effort out of it,” Smee says, adding that the move would also grant vendors refrigeration, which would allow our market to have things most capital city markets have, like butchers and fishmongers.
“We’d have a large seating area, where we would think about having a kitchen and a workshop space. Indoor spaces for our farm vendors, so in bad weather they can drive inside and [not] have to sit out in their rainsuits, things like that,” says Smee of what the St. John’s Farmer’s Market would look like in the old bus depot.
Both Smee and Coun. Hann say the business model of the St. John’s Farmer’s Market works well for local entrepreneurs and local consumers, so expanding the Market could be a real positive for the local economy as a whole.
If the co-operative votes to move forward with the plan, the next steps will be technical and operational assessments of the old depot.
St. John’s is way behind other cities in our country by not having a permanent community market venue. Reusing an existing building with a lot of useable features makes a lot of sense. It’s past time to step it up for local producers.