Early rush at the Farmers Market

Customers line up in front of the Meadow River Garden stand at the Meadow Lake Farmers Market Aug. 26. Customers aren’t allowed to purchase goods until the whistle or bell sounds at 10 o’clock, meaning the market is open for business.

By Mac Christie

Sales can’t start until 10 a.m., but that doesn’t stop customers from lining up early, anxiously awaiting the time they can purchase their chose products at the Meadow Lake Farmers Market.

Signs display the opening time clearly around the site, but vendors note customers start to arrive around 9:30 a.m. Friday mornings to get the best products.

“It’s kind of crazy,” said Haley L’Heureux, 16, of Dot’s and Bee’s Country Garden Vegetables. “A lot of people get here really early.”

Debbie Schiltz, a regular customer at the market, said she often arrives early.

“I came early today because I wanted to pick what I wanted,” she said on Aug. 26. “You’ve got to be first in line basically, to get some of the stuff.”

Evelyn Harvey, who comes for the fresh produce, agreed.

“You have to try to beat the rush,” she said.

Manager Elizabeth McCrimmon, who sells jam, jellies and syrups, said the market has been using the 10 o’clock rule for the past six years.

“In order to be fair to the vendors and to customers we have to be strict,” she noted. “They cannot touch or buy anything until the whistle or bell goes.”

But once the bell goes, it’s open season.

McCrimmon said the rush usually lasts until 10:30, before tapering off.
However, during that half-hour, vendors do a roaring trade.

Once the early rush dies down, there’s business for the rest of the day, said Farmers Market group president Chris Bencharski.

Bencharski sells produce from the Meadow River Garden, just north of the city.

He said while the group discussed allowing sales at a premium price before 10 a.m., that was deemed unfair because many of the vendors have to travel from out of town.

“We decided on 10, it gives everybody an opportunity to get everything all ready and set up,” he said.

Even for those who are closer to town, opening earlier would mean a lot more work.

Once the bell sounds, the patrons are allowed to buy the products they’d had their eye on while they were waiting. The rush lasts about 30 minutes before things die down.

“We’d have to get up earlier,” Bencharski added. “Right now we get up at 6:30 a.m., so if we were open at 9:30 we’d have to get up at 6 o’clock.”
However, McCrimmon noted the crowds don’t start to arrive until fresh vegetables are ready.

“Once the vegetables come there’s a crowd waiting for them,” she said with a laugh.

But some vendors have found their vegetables have been ready later this year, due to the wet weather.

“All my stuff has been growing later,” said L’Heureux, who is selling at the market for the second year. “My carrots have just finally got big.”

Susan Mersaty from the Riverside Market Garden agreed, noting many of the garden’s vegetables, such as corn, have been delayed.

“We should have had some already here today,” she said. “Every time it’s cloudy it affects the rate of ripening.”

While Bencharski noted local support for the market has been great, he said a lot of traffic also comes from tourists.

That’s something McCrimmon attributes to the location, just off of Highway 4, at the museum building.

In fact, she estimates close to 75 per cent of the market’s business comes from tourists.

Bencharski noted the market usually has between 10-12 steady vendors, selling everything from produce to preserves and pies and runs until the October long weekend.

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