“The Lions Chalet was Venus and the new Community Market is Mars – they are worlds apart,” says Ann Connors, Executive Director of the St. John’s Farmers’ Market.
“The Lion’s Chalet was a 2000 square foot space we had to move out of after every market day. The new Community Market is a 14,000 square foot space that the Cooperative will have full management over.”
The new Community Market facility has 14,000 square feet of internal space, an outdoor market plaza, indoor and outdoor seating areas, a community kitchen, workshop space, and ample storage space. “In fair weather, many farmers will be selling from tents and their trucks outdoors,” says Connors. “In inclement and cold weather, they’ll finally have the option to come inside.”
“The new Market will provide more space, more vendors, one of the most fully equipped and fully accessible venues in the City and will be available for use to the general public 6 days a week,” says Connors. “It will also generate much less waste now that we have space and resources to implement reusable dishware for dining.”
How much less waste? Dining at the new space will be zero-waste: people eating in will use reusable dishware, and folks taking out will get their takeout in reusable containers with a small deposit.
Lots of changes have been made behind the scenes, and lots will be happening in the building when it’s not a market. “We’ve hired a bigger, full-time staff who are currently programming the space to provide workshops, educational opportunities, professional development opportunities for harvesters and a host of other activities,” says Connors.
Many Canadian cities of similar size operate farmers’ markets that dwarf pre-2018 SJFM in size. SJFM board and staff have put years of envious observations to use, conducting formal research visits and interviews as a part of their planning and design process.
“Over the years, we’ve cobbled together funding (and piggybacked a lot on our team’s personal travel) to meet with the teams from markets in Nova Scotia (Halifax and Wolfville), New Brunswick (Moncton, Dieppe, and Fredricton), PEI (Charlottetown and Summerside), Ontario (Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Ottawa, and Toronto), and Saskatchewan (Saskatoon),” says Connors. “We’ve tried to focus on markets that serve mid-sized cities like St. John’s.”
“The market in Saskatoon, in particular, is something of an older sibling to the SJFM,” says Connors. “They’re also run by a community cooperative, they also operate out of a former city garage … they got started in 1975, and moved into their permanent home in 2007, so we’ve been able to pick their brains a bunch about how they got there.”
Through their research, SJFM found that lots of markets were trying to be community spaces all the time, but few were really designed for it, leading to a struggle sometimes to accommodate community use. With their new insights, they went back to the design table, forming the current look.
“We also learned a lot from these visits about how different markets are organized behind the scenes,” says Connors. “Having a cooperative where half of the board is elected from vendors and the other half from shoppers is a big help, and something a lot of our peers thought was a great idea. We also have a notably good relationship with the City government here in St. John’s.”
“Our number of vendors on any given market day will roughly double with more flexibility on stall size and layout, exact numbers will vary a bit,” says Connors. “There will generally be a mix of longtime and new vendors. We know the market is an important space for people trying to get a new business going.”
Here are 3 sample, staple vendors:
A big change for Murray Meadows: they’ll now be at the Market twice a week, Wednesdays (afternoon and evening) and Saturdays. “We are really hoping the Wednesday afternoon markets are going to be popular,” says Brian Kowalski of Murray Meadows. “We have been talking to a few chefs who have said they can pick up their produce then. That saves us delivery trips and they can meet with other farmers, too. We expect to be able to sell a lot more produce and be exposed to a lot more customers. We are trying to ramp up production so we have enough to sell at both markets, but if not, I’m kinda hoping we will only have to go to the Wednesday markets and finally have weekends off!”
When the new SJFM opens in July, Murray Meadows Farm is expecting the first of the tomatoes and their seasonal leafy greens:, kale, romaine, iceberg, and boston lettuces, salad greens,beets, radish, arugula, tatsoi, bok choy, spring onions, swiss chard, baby kale, and cilantro.
MULTI-ETHNIC FOOD KITCHEN
The new SJFM means more food options, more often. The Multi-Ethnic Food Kitchen will be open twice a week: Saturdays (9 am – 3 pm) and Wednesdays (2 pm to 8 pm). “We will be able to expand our menu and sell more varieties of multi ethnic food at the new SJFM since we will have a big space, says Zainab Jerrett, owner and operator of Multi Ethnic Food Kitchen. “I will be selling prepared multi-ethnic food, including African food, Caribbean food, Middle eastern food and Asian food.” On the menu, market-goers will find Jamaican jerk chicken and beef patties, kebabs, Nigerian beef suya (kebabs), West African beef tomato sauce, Kenyan mixed peas with plantains, jallof rice, couscous, empanadas, and more.
THE JAM LADY
Sarah MacAulay a.k.a. The Jam Lady, has created over 250 different recipes that she’s sold over the last ten years at the SJFM. Among the favourite recipes include Dandelion Jelly (a.k.a. vegan honey), Newfoundland Jumbleberry (featuring 24 local berries and fruits), Screech Marmalade, and Spruce Tip Chutney. “I’ll offer all those and local, in-season products through July, along with organic and wild foraged items,” says MacAulay. “The new market space means I’ll be there regularly every week and can’t wait to expand into even more preserves that continue to use local, low to no sugar, and unusual ‘Jam Lady’ creativity.”
Room For Everybody
The St. John’s Farmers’ Market (SJFM) started back in 2007 when a single local organic farmer wanted to sell off her surplus. Since then, many small businesses, including those owned by Canadian newcomers, have been able to thrive at the SJFM. Traditional barriers like finding financing and the rising cost of renting brick-and-mortar storefronts aren’t a limiting factor at the SJFM.
“Providing these opportunities is a big focus for us,” says Connors. “The Market provides a space for local vendors in food and craft to try out their products with a small overhead. It allows them to build a clientele and to find opportunities to expand their customer base outside the Market. There are also many opportunities for new vendors to learn the tricks of the trade from their peers and to build connections that turn into expanded business opportunities outside of the market hall.”
“For new Canadians in particular, the Market has always been a great place to start from,” says Connors. “Aside from vendors, many of our dedicated volunteers are also new Canadians. Markets are familiar spaces no matter where you’re from, and leveraging food skills from your home country can be a pretty solid path into employment here in St. John’s, without the risk (or capital needed) to take on a storefront.”
Connors says that SJFM feels that for the local food community to continue to grow and thrive, there needs to be space for producers at all scales. “So, we’ll see some folks who start at the Market, grow their business, then leave, some folks who work full-time in food production and sell only at the market, and some folks who have other jobs but still make time to add to the market community,” says Connors. “All of those kinds of vendors have a place in a solid food system.”
The St. John’s Farmers’ Market will be open on Wednesdays from 2:00pm to 8:00pm and on Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, year-round, at 245 Freshwater Road.
A Comparison of the Former & Forthcoming Spaces
|The Lion’s Club Chalet||The Community Market|
|2,000 Sq. Feet||14,000 Sq. Feet|
|1 Day a week, Not Year Round||2 Day a Week, Year Round|
|Seating for 12 Patrons||Seating for 130 Patrons at new Market Café|