Farmers’ Market Challenge

3 people. 3 different markets. 1 common budget. What can they buy?

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Aviv Guy
-> Moss St. Market
Small Business Owner (Poke Fresh), Taste Connoisseur, Athlete

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Gillie Easdon
-> Esquimalt Market
Writer, Eater, Thinker, Person Who Gives a Shit

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Jared Qwustenuxun Williams
-> Duncan Farmers’ Market
Devoted Father & Husband, Elders Kitchen Manager, Wild Harvester, Hul’qumi’num Student

What were you able to buy with your $75 budget?

Aviv: I got a lot of organic goodies for our Poke Bowls, large quantities of Red Radish, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Mixed Greens and Green Onions.

Gillie: Mixed Greens, Fennel, Beets, Carrots, Rainbow Chard (Belle-Isle Farmer), Arrancini Arrabiata with Coleslaw and Lemon-Cherry Limeade (Indecent Risotto), Watermelon Macarons (Bon Macaron), Unicorn Gummies (Unicorn Treats), Corned Beef and Pepperoni (Boughneath Farm).

Jared: 500 g Feta, 1 lb Carrots, 3 Garlic, 2 lbs Cauliflower, 3 lbs Broccoli, 1 lb Carrots, 5 lbs Potatoes, 3 Zucchini, 3 Garlic, 2 Bundles Garlic Scapes, 2 Pints Blueberries. 4 Red Peppers.

How many meals did that contribute to?

Aviv: In total I would estimate that the amount of food that I bought served over 20 bowls!

Gillie: 8 meals!

Jared: The vegetables that we picked up at the market will last us at least a week, if not into next week for things like garlic and potatoes. With the exception of the blueberries, they barely made it home. This is all considering that we are a family of two adults and two children. But when we got home I used many of the items we bought to make a deadly cauliflower Parmesan, like chicken Parmesan but using cauliflower instead. The fresh vegetables and garlic made it AMAZING.

Does the personal interaction with the farmer or food producer change your local shopping experience? Are there things you learn about food that you might not otherwise?

Aviv: Love the interaction with the farmers! They explain to me details of their produce that they themselves have grown and teach me the tricks of the trade to grow them! It's so fulfilling to be able to shake the hand of the individuals that grow the food that my restaurant provides to the very people that live in the same area as those farms.

Gillie: Yes, it does. It shows me what’s in season, what grows here, how much variety there is. I don’t garden, so I have zero frame of reference. Why buy food from somewhere else that we grow here? It’s nutty.

Jared: Absolutely, the idea that I can ask vendors about their products and even learn about new types of ingredients is a big draw for me. Specialty ingredients fill our local market from secret kimchi recipes to a vendor with every mushroom your heart desires. This gives shoppers the chance to ask questions and learn about whats in season and what to do with it. I appreciate being able to have that kind of relationship with the people who grow and supply my food.

Farmers make a commitment to harvest food and show up at the market every week, rain or shine. If you knew your weekly food dollars made an impact on farmers’ bottom line, would you consider making a real commitment to regular market shopping?

Aviv: Yes, I will definitely support local farmers by purchasing from markets more frequently. I’d say at least once a month for myself and the business, for more local organic produce.

Gillie: Yes, for sure. There’s something very personal about buying direct. At first, years ago, I found ita little intimidating, them watching me and me smiling but sometimes just walking by—so awkward. It must be entertaining to watch people not make eye contact, or make some weirdsmall talk or bury their face in a device.

I love to food shop and browse in my own world, wandering the aisles and just zoning. It’s what watching TV is for some. Shopping at a farmers’ market lacks anonymity. It’s intimate. There’s apride in purchase and connection in buying from a real person who is related to that food. It’spotent, and the food tastes better because it’s as fresh as it gets.

Jared: Local farmers’ bottom line should be of everyone's concern. We are too quick to forget about the fragility of our food system. With less than 2% of people in agriculture, we need our local farmers more now that ever. Locally made foods produce lower greenhouse gas emissions, are fresher, support the local economy, and if you ask me, they taste better because they come from home.

What stands in your way of being a regular market shopper?

Aviv: The main obstacles to buying from organic local farms/markets is the price point. There are already such small margins on food as it is, which makes it hard to ONLY offer/buy organic produce. Also, for a restaurant owner, a produce/product delivery system is crucial for any long term sustainability, which market shopping can’t offer. As well, something that would help buying as a business, is having some of the produce prepped. My employees spend a lot of time on prepping all the ingredients and from some wholesalers I am able to purchase some already prepped.

Gillie: Locations of markets, and I’m a bit of an introvert.

Jared: Aside from wrangling my boys, we shop at the market less frequently because of the sheer fact that we produce a lot of our own foods. So when eggs are cheap, we've got lots of eggs. Or when tomatoes are in season we are flush with tomatoes in our garden. We normally go to the market for specialty ingredients and the edge season vegetables, vegetables that farmers can produce a few weeks earlier or later than we can.

Is there anything that market organizers, individual farmers or promoters could do to help you be a regular market shopper?

Aviv: I honestly think they did a great job at the market and there were so many different farms to choose farm. It was great to go to the different farms and mix and mingle. A daily vs weekly market would be more convenient for a restaurant owner such as myself, however it would still not be sustainable to purchase every time or get everything I need from a market.

Gillie: I would not go to Esquimalt Farmers’ Market to pop in and shop and leave while the work is
happening on Bay. It is a bitch to get out of Esquimalt after 4:30. We were at the market until 6:45 and it was still a slog to get over the bridge. I recognize that five blocks of congestion is pretty whiney in terms of world traffic or even the Colwood Crawl. But I’m being honest here. Maybe in the summer the market could start at one or two, but I’m self-employed, so maybe it would be too quiet to justify.

Jared: As the father of two small children I would love to see more things for kids to do. I know that before we had kids we went to market every week, and even when our children were still small we went. But tending a six year old and three year old at the market is chaos. But, I am sure in a few years when the kids calm down we'll be back.

Where’s the (fill in the blank)?

Aviv: When purchasing for our particular menu at Poke Fresh, some of the items that we were not able to find through our market shopping were sushimi grade fish, such as albacore tuna, pink salmon, sockeye salmon and ahi tuna. With regards to produce, we were able to find a lot of great organic ingredients, but we also require vegetables that don’t easily grow in Canada such as jalapenos, avocados, cherry tomatoes and edamame.

Gillie: Tofu, Chicken, Fish, Butter, Eggs (there probably were, but didn’t see them?)

Jared: I found a vast market of amazing produce and high quality products that all tie their origins traditional European markets. I saw jams, honey, pickles, wine, bread, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, croissants, eggs, beef, chicken, pork, you name it, I could buy it. But what I didn't see were first nations, specifically Cowichan, craters. I found no half smoked fish, dried clams, knitting, drums, carvings, or any other local first nations hand crafted item. I love European food as much as the next guy. I await the day when we start seeing some of the the first nations delicacies that that surround us, on a market table. But this problem is bigger than the market, this is a food sovereignty issue. But by doing outreach to first nations vendors at other markets the farmers market could garner interest. I am sure first nations crafts would be a welcome sight by those who already visit the market weekly.

Besides the fresh food, what other things about particular markets draws you to them?

Aviv: I really enjoyed the communal aspect of the market. Speaking to all the merchants and learning about them and the locals around felt so organic.

Gillie: Live music, unique jewelry, hot sauce, running into people, exploring new foods, food trucks. I had never been to Esquimalt Farmers’ Market before. I had no idea where it was. I have never noticed that park. That is easily the prettiest market location in Victoria. The trees are gorgeous,it’s tucked away. People were sitting on the grass - there was a no dogs rule, which was great, so no scanning for dog poo, and no yappers that the owners have stopped hearing years ago. There is a sign about the no dogs with a note below that inviting people to volunteer to set up a“barking lot,” which seemed a cunning and entertaining (to me, anyhow) way to curtail inevitable complainers.

The food trucks were great. I planned to only buy groceries, but a huge part of going to a farmers’ market is buying a snack, and sitting and listening to the music, or balancing your paper plate while you explore the stalls. It was lovely to give my son some money to go and buy something on his own (he is nine). There was a nice hum of people chatting, and it was well-attended without being packed.

Jared: I must say that I do enjoy the music at our market most of the time. Something about a live band playing their song over a bustling crowd of shoppers, it makes for a very friendly atmosphere. The kids love the music too! The market is also a social place where you can run into friends and relatives. But this can make trips to the market take much longer than planned.