Print Edition: April 2, 2014
Grab your eco-friendly shopping bags — the Abbotsford Farm and Country Market has opened up once more for the warm months. For the first few weeks of spring the farmers’ market only runs once every two weeks, but as of April 19 it’ll be back to its usual schedule of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday.
When I heard the farmers’ market had reopened for the spring, I went down in early March to check it out. It was still bitingly cold, and a heavy rain was melting the piles of slush that still lined the sidewalks. I was concerned to see only half a dozen stalls open, but the vendors were cheerful as they sipped tea from thermoses and rubbed their gloved hands together.
“Come back in a month,” one of them told me, “and this place will be booming again.”
Now it’s a month later — and I think I have some shopping to do.
I’ve been a fan of the Abbotsford Farm and Country Market for a few years, but the first time I stumbled across it, I didn’t even know it existed. I just happened to be downtown one summer morning in the right place at the right time. The crowd milling around in the lane beside Ann Marie’s Café caught my eye, and I decided to see what was going on.[pullquote]Skip the pale tomatoes trucked up from California and the tasteless strawberries flown in from Mexico — the best stuff comes from our own city.[/pullquote]
The little side street was lined with tents and vans, live musicians, tables of handmade crafts and baubles, candles and soaps — and, of course, food. Armfuls of leafy greens and bright orange carrots still caked with earth were being unloaded from a truck, fresh from the Sumas flats. A local apiarist sold jars of amber honey and handmade beeswax candles from their family’s beehive. The bakeries alone were worth the trip: round loaves of bread studded with roasted garlic, elaborately folded pastries, rustic galettes filled with local raspberries…
But it wasn’t just the merchandise that impressed me. There was something special about the way that the people behind the counters met my eye and introduced themselves to me. They told me with pride about the history of their farm or dairy or business, or offered unsolicited but enthusiastic advice about what kind of sauce or wine would go best with what they were selling.
In the age of the supermarket, it’s a rare privilege to connect with the people who actually grow, bake, and prepare your food. Even if that doesn’t matter to you, consider the other benefits: spending your money at a farmers’ market supports local businesses, and it’s much more environmentally friendly than buying food that’s been shipped across the country, not to mention healthier, fresher, and tastier. If you’re a locavore, a city like Abbotsford is the right place to be. We’re blessed with some of the most fertile growing land in the world. Skip the pale tomatoes trucked up from California and the tasteless strawberries flown in from Mexico — the best stuff comes from our own city.
The downside of shopping at farmers’ markets, of course, is the price, especially for university students. When you’re struggling to find two bucks to put in the laundry machine, buying a $7 loaf of specialty organic bread is out of the question.
But if you’re throwing an end-of-semester dinner party and want to splurge, or if your girlfriend’s mother is coming to visit and you need to look like you know how to put a sophisticated meal together, the farmers’ market is the place to go. Grab a loaf of fresh artisan bread, some locally-grown kohlrabi or butter lettuce for a salad, a wedge of organic goat cheese, some free-range chicken, and pick up a bottle of Langley wine on the way home and relax. Half the work of making dinner is done, and nothing on your table will have come from more than a few miles away.