Farmers’ markets heat up in time for summer season

Summer is just around the corner, and for many small businesses this is the season to thrive because it’s the start of the farmers’ market season. 

Windsor-Essex residents have a strong reputation for flooding markets each weekend to try the latest product being offered from local entrepreneurs and artisans. Markets offer fresh produce, homemade baked goods, novelty pet treats and handmade fares, but more importantly an in-person opportunity for local sellers to showcase their products and for consumers to meet the makers. 

One of the most popular market in the region is the Downtown Windsor Farmers’ Market (DWFM), which features farm fresh fruit, vegetables, produce and unique artisan food products. Operating for over 10 years, each weekend locals flood to Pelissier Street to shop their favourite vendors and discover new products. The market has seen an average of 1,500 people attend each Saturday since opening at the beginning of May.  

Debi Croucher, executive director of the Downtown Windsor BIA, is excited for this season and the return of 50 vendors as well as welcoming 35 new sellers. Returning market favourites include Little Foot Food and The Mush Hub, along with new additions such as Zule Eats, Aunty Aldo’s Kitchen, The Mindful Bakehouse, and many more. The DWFM will also be launching its digital series of Kids Corner and Chef’s Table in the near future. These interactive video vignettes offer the community an engaging series of visual arts and crafts workshops and culinary demonstrations.

Croucher spoke to the importance of the market for the community. “The DWFM increases access to and the provision of locally sourced, healthy food to inner city residents as well as other citizens who may choose to frequent the core for the specific purpose of visiting the market. These locally-sourced, high quality selections include fresh fruits and vegetables; not typical options available at conventional supermarkets. There’s also a multicultural component to the farmers’ market with vendors selling ethnic foods and products — not to mention the overwhelming positive social benefits of the market.” 

Whether you’re looking to buy or sell, the popularity of markets has not diminished due to COVID-19 health restrictions. Croucher said, “The [market] has had to institute a variety of safety measures and protocols in order to operate safely during the pandemic and, given the current provincial lockdown, has restricted vendor attendance to only essential foods and products until health measures permit otherwise.” 

If you’re thinking of attending an upcoming market day you can review the COVID-19 safety protocols before heading out.  

“Buying and supporting local businesses strengthens our community, and is especially important during the pandemic,” said Croucher. “It nurtures locally owned businesses, provides employment opportunities for locals, helps create and foster new and unique businesses, reduces our environmental impact and stimulates our local economy at a time when it’s needed the most.”

After many years of overseeing the DWFM, Croucher has words of advice for future vendors looking to make their mark: “Find a unique niche, differentiate your offerings, start small, ensure that you’ve got the capacity to bring sufficient product and familiarize yourself with the rules and health regulations.” 

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre (SBEC) has seen many of its member businesses launch and grow through selling at local farmers’ markets. SBEC also participates in the downtown market by showcasing the products and services from participants in its Summer Company student entrepreneurship program. SBEC and its student-run businesses will be hitting the market later this summer. 

The Downtown Windsor Farmers’ Market is located at Pelissier Street and Maiden Lane and is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. until Dec. 11. 

There are more markets popping up around the region to great success. Make sure and check out these opportunities to buy and sell throughout Windsor-Essex. 

Amherstburg Farmers’ Market 

Where: 8728 Howard Ave. Amherstburg (GL Heritage Brewery)  

When: Saturdays 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. until the end of October 

Supporting local farm, agriculture, baked goods and artisan craft products. The Amherstburg Farmers’ Market cultivates an environment for community events that focus on healthy eating, local attractions and businesses – thus supporting rural economic development. 

Harrow Market 

Where: 44 Sinasac St. W, Harrow (Located at The Depot) 

When: Second Sunday of each month until October 

This outdoor market will feature many handcrafted items made by local artists, produce, flowers and many other local businesses. The market is still taking new vendors for the Summer season. 

Brewhouse Market  

Where: 43 Mill St. W, Leamington  

When: Saturdays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. until Oct. 9 

Farmers style market held at Cured Craft Brewing Co., featuring the best of Essex County in one location representing over 30 local producers, artisans, and more.