There’s more to cottage country produce than stopping by the side of the road for fresh corn or wild blueberries. When you explore any one of the many, many farmers’ markets throughout Ontario, you’ll have the opportunity to expand your palate in exciting directions. So pick up the corn and berries, but serve that corn with a side of swiss chard sauteed with farm-fresh garlic, and bake those blueberries into a lavender-scented galette. Your taste buds will thank you.
(And we know there are many, many more farmers’ markets in Ontario than these ones, but this is the perfect starter list!)
St. Jacobs Famers’ Market (Thursdays and Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. all year)
The St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market is the largest year-round farmers’ market in Canada. It’s also one that was almost snuffed out of existence a year ago, after a fire causing $2 million in damage destroyed the market’s main building. Fortunately for the market’s loyal customers, a temporary structure was soon up and running, and a new permanent building is under construction. Along with fresh produce, St. Jacobs is the perfect place to pick up items with a Mennonite flavour, including cheese, summer sausage, preserves and honey. If you’re feeling peckish, the apple fritters are a must-taste.
Keady Livestock/Farmers’ Market (Tuesdays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Located about 15 kilometres southwest of Owen Sound, Keady Livestock and Farmers’ Market combines regular livestock auctions with displays from more than 250 vendors selling fresh produce, baking, crafts, and antiques. Cages of chickens rub elbows with goats, ducks, and cows, giving the Keady Market a definite on-the-farm flair.
Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market (Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. until October 29)
The Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market, while seasonal, stays open further into the fall than other markets in Muskoka, which tend to close around Thanksgiving weekend. So if you’re closing up the cottage late this year, never fear: there’s still somewhere to get local produce, baking, and crafts even as the frost threatens. Attracting approximately 80,000 visitors each year, the Gravenhurst FM was voted best seasonal farmers’ market in 2001.
Haliburton County Farmers’ Market (Carnarvon: Friday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. until October 10; Haliburton: Tuesday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. until October 7)
If you’re in the Haliburton highlands, you’re in luck: you’ve got two farmers’ markets to choose from—at least until Thanksgiving. Both markets feature live performances by a variety of buskers, as well as an all-season food or garden book exchange. Plus, don’t forget to check out the winners of the ongoing “oddest vegetable” contest.
Gore Bay Farmers’ Market (Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. until October 10)
As the picture says on the Gore Bay Farmers’ Market Facebook page: “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy local—and that’s kind of the same thing.” Vendors at the market are all local, with many family-run farms participating. While you’re there, pick up fresh Lake Huron fish from the Purvis Fisheries truck or a jar of haskap jam. (And if you’re not sure what haskaps are, well, it’s a great conversation starter.)
Carp Farmers’ Market (Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May to October)
Contrary to its name, the Carp Farmers’ Market doesn’t sell fish. In reality, the market, located in the village of Carp, north of Kanata, is the largest producer-based farmers’ market in Eastern Ontario. Visit their website for a handy guide to what’s in season and for recipes to make use of all the bounty you’re bound to bring home. The market also runs an annual garlic festival in August, so pack breath mints for your visit.
Perth Farmers’ Market (Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. until October 11)
The Perth Farmers’ Market is worth a visit just to take a look at its permanent home, which is a structure made from repurposed Ottawa bus shelters affectionately called the “Crystal Palace.” With live music, outdoor dining tables, and a wide range of vendors, the market is a good place to start a day wandering around Perth, a picturesque town on the Tay River that was voted the “Prettiest Town in Ontario” by TVOntario viewers in 2000.
Mountjoy Farmers’ Market (Timmins, Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. until mid-October)
If you’re farther north than Muskoka, never fear—there’s still a farmers’ market to be found, right in downtown Timmins. Get there early, buy farm-fresh eggs and a loaf of fresh bread for breakfast, and you’re all set. If you want to spend a little more time, browse through the market’s selection of local art, including pottery and paintings. The market often has specialty items on sale for a limited time, like one vendor who sells birch syrup at the end of August.