More than just a market, Pelham Farmers’ Market offers community connection

Eleanor Arbor (seated) with Anne Durst of Bry-Anne Farms (right) at the opening day on the Pelham Farmers’ Market.

If you stop by a farmers’ market this summer, you will be sure to find plenty of freshly picked produce and other organic products.

One other thing you might get to enjoy is the social experience.

It’s something that has been missing the last two years, according to Fred Arbor market clerk at the Pelham Farmers’ Market. Prior to becoming a clerk seven years ago, he was a vendor for a decade.

“(The market is) a place people can go to get homegrown produce,” he said. “People can bring their children to see what is available and it is a social gathering place.”

That social aspect, he said, has been missed due to measures put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of protocols, the market was limited in the number of vendors it could have and shopping capacity was limited too. As the market opened for its 19th season on May 5, Arbor said he’s seeing a return to “normal”.

That starts with an increase in vendors. There will be between 15 and 16 vendors, up from the limit of 13 allowed during the previous two seasons.

The market provides shoppers an opportunity to buy fresh local produce that’s grown in their community – regardless of what’s happening with the supply chain. Some of the fresh produce shoppers are buying was picked that very same day.

Anne and Bryan Durst with Bry-Anne Farms, a fifth-generation family owned and operated pick-your-own farm located in Pelham, are there weekly. They have attended the market all 19 years so far.

Their farm produces strawberries, peas, potatoes, raspberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash and pumpkins, as well as baked goods and pickles.

Anne said they attend other farmers’ markets in the region, but the Pelham market is their local one.

Because it starts at 4 pm, Anne said the produce for sale was often picked that same day.

At Bry-Anne Farms, they put food on their table by producing the food others put on their tables.

“That is how we make our living,” said Anne.

With the rising costs of groceries, the market is hoping more shoppers will be looking for local solutions.

According to Statistics Canada, shoppers paid 8.7 percent more for food purchased from stores on a year-over-year basis in March. This is the largest annual increase since March 2009.

Prices for dairy products and eggs rose 8.5 per cent year over year in March, following a 6.9 per cent increase in February, the largest annual increase since February 1983.

The return of the Junior Growers program to the market also aims to teach kids how to grow their own food – in particular, lettuce.

Longtime vendor Bev Yungblut of Juice of Kings, based out of Fonthill, said they’ll be growing it in a planter.

“They don’t need a lot of space,” she said.

The program is run through the GooseChase app, and there will be different missions for kids to complete each week.

Yungblut said it is important for kids to learn that food doesn’t just come from the grocery store.

“We want to show the work that goes into it,” she said.

The market runs each Thursday at Pelham Town Square from 4 pm until dusk until Thanksgiving weekend.

For more information about vendors, visit the Pelham Farmers’ Market website.

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After hearing stories about rising food prices at the grocery store and food bank shelves being emptied, Niagara this Week looked into some of the alternative ways to get fresh produce locally.


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