Home Again, Home Again: At the Ottawa Farmers' Market
On August 16, I joined thousands of curious, umbrella-toting visitors to attend the official re-opening of Lansdowne Park.
Even though it was pouring rain, it was our first chance to see what had been going on for three years behind the towering plywood barricades, interminable scaffolding and occasional clouds of dust.
It did not disappoint.
The new TD Place stadium is stunning. The majestic Aberdeen Pavilion brought back fond memories of red ribbons at SuperEx baking competitions. The steadfast Horticultural Building which had been granted heritage status now stands not far from its original location having been disassembled and reassembled brick-by-brick.
We were all enjoying the shiny new "this," mixed in with the heritage "that," and revelling in the luxurious amount of pedestrian-only space that unites them.
But what really drew me to Lansdowne that day was the sneak peek of the new home for the Ottawa Farmers' Market. Next January, the Market will be relocating to its birthplace at Lansdowne from its current temporary site at Brewer Park.
I have always been a fan of the market. When it first opened on July 2, 2006 with 19 cautious vendors, it was a thrill to have an entire market devoted exclusively to local producers.
Back then, Ottawa had two markets, Parkdale and Byward; at them, local producers weren't easy to find, so you were never quite sure if the tomato you held in your hand was from down the street or halfway around the world. If you wanted to be sure your produce was local you would have to seek out a farm stand or head to the charming Organic Farmers' Market on Saturdays. These days it is much easier. Locally-driven Savour Ottawa offers a rigorous certification process for local producers so if you qualify, you get a nifty green oval sign that proudly declares your products to be incontrovertibly local. Even the vendors at Ottawa's city-run markets now display signs indicating what proportion of their goods are imported.
Times have indeed changed and what has become obvious to me over the years is we now want our produce to be both fresh and locally produced. I think it is one of the reasons the Ottawa Farmers' Market continues to attract new and loyal customers, keeping the 100 or so vendors humming with no sign of slowing down.
At the re-opening of Lansdowne, the vendors set up their stands in Aberdeen Square, atop the pristine pavement and between rows of newly planted saplings. Few may have realized that Aberdeen Square is mere metres from the market's original location but the recent redevelopment made it unrecognizable. Despite the rain, the square was packed with eager, curious customers much like the scene at the original market. It was wonderful to see and experience.
With the return of the market to Lansdowne comes an expanded schedule starting with three festive weekend Christmas markets: November 30, December 6, 7 and 13, 14.
Starting in January until the end of April, the plan is to hold the regular Sunday market from 10 to 3 in the Aberdeen Pavilion. In May, the market moves out of doors to Aberdeen Square. You may want to check www.ottawafarmersmarket.ca before heading out.