As food prices in Canada soar, farmers’ markets in Windsor-Essex have been operating sooner than usual in the face of rising inflation.
The Windsor Downtown Farmers Market and the Amherstburg Farmers Market at GL Heritage Brewery opened earlier this month while Canada’s inflation rate is at a 30-year high at 5.7 per cent.
“We are having a fantastic season despite opening a month early this year,” says Steve Green, general manager of the downtown Windsor market. “We get feedback from our visitors and they’re all very happy to be back down here to access the local product. We’re quite pleased. We weren’t quite sure what was going to happen, but I can tell you that there is a real buzz on the street about everyone being here.”
About 60 vendors with more on the way have signed up for the seventh season of the open-air market at Pelissier Street and Maiden Lane.
Green says the market’s popularity saw it expand by four weeks this year, after a three-week expansion last year.
“I think people are coming here to avoid stores. I really do. I mean, I know that we tank up on everything that we need for the week,” Green explains. “It’s traceable when you come down to the market. I know where I’m getting it, I can talk to the people that just made it. Even if I’m having hot food, I know they just made it.”
Green says there are some costs that need to be absorbed, but says for the most part, vendors have kept their prices the same as last year.
“I think in the larger stores, there’s been an ability to artificially keep some items cheap, you can have a lost leader, but at the farmers’ market, what we’ve tried to do is represent real costs. And that’s why we’ve been able to hold fast on some of our prices because we always tend to represent the real cost and not an artificial price that might be in a larger warehouse type store,” Green says.
In Amherstburg, it’s the 12th season for the local farmers’ market which marks the third season at the agricultural-based family-run brewery.
“I think everybody here has had to raise their prices, because of everything else went up also,” says Rita Casagrande. “But I haven’t had any complaints to be honest with you. I think people are expecting to pay a little more because we’re paying a little more for everything now.”
The Amherstburg Farmers Market runs each Saturday and will be held every week, rain or shine, from 8:30 am until 1:30 pm
Customers say they don’t mind spending a little more money on local produce or products.
“I think because you know it’s coming direct from the suppliers and I think it’s, you know, there’s no middleman or nothing,” says Gerry Traverse. “It is what it is. We’ve got to do it. Can’t stop living.”
Others like Sarah Morris in Windsor agree.
“I think it’s such a wonderful thing that we have in our community. Windsor Essex is full of beautiful produce, full of small local farms. And if we can go directly to the stores, directly to these farms, and get our vegetables for the week,” she says. “What an awesome lucky thing we have.”
Morris adds, “I would much rather give my money to a small business directly than to a Zhers or whomever who will, you know, somewhere down the chain, those farms are going to get that money. But if I’m gonna pay a little bit extra, I’m more than happy to go to a small farm somewhere, where I know that it’s going to go back to our community in some way.”