Fresh fruit and vegetables are among the pleasures of summer, and the popular weekly farmers’ markets in Lethbridge offer a place for residents to find those items and much more besides.
The Saturday farmers’ market, held in the West Pavilion at Exhibition Park from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., runs from mid-May until the last Saturday in October and regularly attracts more than 3,000 people. The downtown market, held each Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Festival Square on 6 Street between 3 and 4 Avenue South, began its season July 4 and will run until Sept. 5.
The Wednesday downtown market has been operating for about a dozen years and, while smaller than the Saturday market because of its smaller venue, it has proven to be a popular addition to the downtown core, drawing some 700 to 1,000 patrons weekly.
“We started it with only six vendors,” said Doug Kryzanowski, marketing manager for Exhibition Park.
This year the Wednesday market welcomed 15 returning full-time vendors along with four new full-time exhibitors, in addition to casual exhibitors which further diversify the market each week.
“It kept growing year after year,” Kryzanowski added, noting the Wednesday market “is pretty well a staple of downtown for summer.”
Kryzanowski said there are several factors that have contributed to the success of the downtown farmers’ market.
“There are more people living downtown. That’s part of the success of it,” he said.
With more people downtown, but with no food stores operating downtown since the closure of the IGA store on the site where Casa now sits, the Wednesday market presents a handy option for picking up produce. The cosy downtown venue doesn’t hurt, either.
“It’s bright; it’s just a nice, casual, people-coming-for-lunch area,” said Kryzanowski. “It makes for a pretty good release from the office and go and pick up some stuff.”
A little luck with the weather is a welcome benefit, too.
“We have a lot of good things going for us and the second thing is the weather,” said Kryzanowski, noting the downtown farmers’ market has rarely been rained out. He can only recall perhaps four occasions where that has happened.
“That’s pretty incredible,” he noted.
The farmers’ markets offer more than just a shopping opportunity.
“The Saturday market is more of a social event and the downtown market is turning into that, too,” Kryzanoswki said.
The downtown market is a partnership of Exhibition Park, the City of Lethbridge and the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone.
“We’re just happy to be partners with the BRZ and the City in doing this,” said Kryzanowski. “That’s part of a vibrant community effort.”
The farmers’ markets offer products that are made, baked or grown, which means shoppers can find crafts, fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade baking, art work, handmade clothing, and even more.
Farmers’ markets are hugely popular across North America, including Lethbridge.
“We’re one of the more successful markets in Alberta, probably top five for sure,” said Kryzanowski.
One of the attractions of farmers’ markets is that people can rely on quality products from local producers.
“People know where their food is coming from,” said Kryzanowksi. “That’s a big part of the future of the markets.”
For more information about the Lethbridge farmers’ markets, visit the Exhibition Park website at http://www.exhibitionpark.ca.