You Are Where You Eat: Re-Focusing Communities Around Markets

You Are Where You Eat: Re-Focusing Communities Around Markets; Will YOU support “Buy Bellarine”?

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The breathtaking central hall of Cleveland’s West Side Market, a major hub in the host city for this year’s International Public Markets Conference (Sept. 21-23) / Photo: PBS NewsHour via Flickr

Picture yourself at the supermarket, awash in fluorescent light. You’re trying to stock up for the next couple of weeks, since it’s a busy time of year. You grab some granola bars (and maybe even a box of pop tarts), some frozen dinners, a box of macaroni with one of those little packets of powdered cheese stuff. And oh, they’re running one of those promotions where you can get ten cans of soup for, like, a dollar each. Perfect! Dinner for the next two weeks. On the way to the register, you swing by the produce aisle to grab a bunch of bananas. Like many people these days, you’re trying to eat healthy, and breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
Now imagine that your neighborhood had a public market–the kind of place that’s easy to pop by on the way home from work to grab fresh food every couple of days. Before you reach the open-air shed, you’re surrounded by produce of every shape and color; you can smell oranges and basil from half a block away. As you follow your appetite through the maze of bins and barrels, you bump into your neighbors, and make plans to head downtown to the central market over the weekend to take a cooking class and pick up some less common ingredients. You may even make a day of it and check out the new weekly craft fair that takes place the next block over.

Up in Nova Scotia, where Davies and O’Neil have been working with the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, Operations Manager Ewen Wallace notes the importance of his market (which does have its own permanent building) in the local community. “Throughout my involvement in this project and spending so much time face-to-face with the community at large” he says, “the thing that’s really hit home is that the people of Halifax really do consider this their market.”

Buy BellarineShoppers peruse the booths at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market / Photo: Nicole Bratt via Flickr

And while the market is truly a stalwart (they’ve never missed a Saturday in 262 years!), the role that it plays in the regional economy contributes greatly to the sense of community ownership, since most residents of Atlantic Canada are just a generation away from a farmer or fisherman. “At the end of World War II,” Wallace explains, “we had around 35,000 independent farms in Nova Scotia. Now we have around 3,800. This market is intended to serve as a hub from which money in the urban core is being channeled back into rural areas around the province. This is all tied to food security.”
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