Spring produce is in season and Halton’s farmers’ markets are open for business! I had one goal in mind for my trip to the opening day of the Milton Farmers’ Market: Asparagus. This vegetable is one of the first signs that Ontario’s local food season is underway, and the superior taste of fresh, local produce is one of my favorite reasons to visit Halton’s farmers’ markets. I also like to know where my food comes from, and the best way to find that information is to go straight to the source – the farmer. Many producers do double duty as retailers in their vendor booths and they can tell you all about the food you are buying, like Paul from PV’s Farms who explained the process of preparing his soil for the vegetables he will bring to the market later this season, including radish, kale, lettuce, beets, and carrots
In search of the perfect bunch of asparagus during my trip to the Milton Farmers’ Market, I met Theresa from Andrews’ Scenic Acres who taught me all about the growing and harvesting process for asparagus. I learned that these green spears are quite mighty, growing through temperamental spring weather, with each plant producing multiple harvests up until the hotter, dryer weather sets in. I also chatted with Robert from Kujawy Farms, and he told me that the asparagus harvest was good despite the below average spring temps that made for a slower start to the season. I made sure to buy two bunches before I left the opening day of the Milton Farmers’ Market, ready to roast with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
With asparagus on my mind, I wasn’t looking for maple syrup, but Mark from Mazzocato Maple Farm offered me a sample of his certified organic maple syrup and I was hooked. Mark answered all my questions from “How did you get organic certified?” to “What do you do with maple butter?” with enthusiasm. I learned that this maple farm uses a combination of traditional and modern methods to ensure efficiency, quality, and precision as they produce their unique maple syrup blend. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Mark prefers to eat his maple butter straight out of the jar. And it turns out that so do I – it was delicious.
Besides building connections between growers and eaters, farmers’ markets connect residents to local artisans as well as cultural and social events. While I was walking through the market, Stephanie and Helen of the Milton Choristers called me over to their booth to let me know about their group’s upcoming performance. I also came across the Chamber’s Scholarship Café where purchases of back bacon on a bun, coffee, and cold drinks contribute to six $1000 scholarships awarded to local high school students each year. With other vendors selling preserves, honey, apple cider, baked goods, plants, meats, fruits, vegetables, and wine, there is something for all tastes at this market.
These home-grown goods are part of what makes farmers’ markets a popular alternative to conventional retail food stores, helping to support local producers. According to a study by Farmers’ Markets Ontario (FMO), over 15 million shopper-visits were made to markets across the province in 2008, and 47% of vendors reported that 50% of their total farm income came from market sales. You can support your local farmers and find your favorite local foods (I recommend the asparagus, of course) at one of Halton’s farmers’ markets. Find the one closest to you by visiting: Farmers' markets.
Farmers’ Markets in Halton Region:
By Michelle Malandra