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Fresh Picks of the Season: Farmers’ Markets

Published: 09/06/2011

Be polite now! As much as it's driving you crazy to wait for that guy picking through red tomatoes as though he's selecting produce for the queen, you must mind your manners. After all, we are at the farmers' market where everyone is cheery and relaxed as they stroll around with a hot cup of coffee in hand. So chill out and have a sip o' joe. We're in prime time here at the market.

It's hard to believe that Manitoba's grand dame of farmers' markets is barely out of her teens. The first St. Norbert Farmers' Market was held in 1988 with eight vendors. No entertainment, canopies or parking lot, either. There was very little hustle and bustle.

Today, there's plenty of all that. Saturday mornings (bright and early) mark a pilgrimage of hundreds of folks from all corners of Winnipeg to St. Norbert, a south-end neighbourhood. Now over 130 full-time vendors and as many as 50 casuals ones grow it, make it or bake it. Lucky for us, the markets stays open until the last weekend of October. Now you know where to buy your Halloween pumpkin.

You could make an attempt to visit every vendor on a Saturday, but going in with a plan will probably make your day a little more enjoyable. We offer these handy tips.

1. Get Coffee
You'll need a little caffeine boosts for your morning at the market. Besides, Green Been Coffee Imports fresh-roasts a delicious selection of fair trade beans. Get a hot cup on chilly mornings or have it iced in the afternoon. Either way, you'll be buying a pound or two to take home.
2. BYOB
Of course you always have full intentions of bringing your reusable bag on every grocery trip. But here at the market, it's critical. Choose the one with the wide shoulder straps because before you know it, you'll be carting around 10 pounds of pattypan squash and green zebra tomatoes.
3. Change is Good
Change, as in loonies, toonies, fives and tens, is very good indeed. Handing a vendor yet another $20 just isn't cool.
4. Bust out of the Produce Box
Just this once, look for something that you've never seen before. Ask the vendor what it is, what to do with it, and buy it! You could find a new favourite in Evan's cherries, purple haze carrots or a knucklehead pumpkin.

Farmers' Feast, Sept. 15, 6:30 pm
Chefs, farmers, chocolatiers, brewers and roasters-they're all under one roof for the uber popular Farmers' Feast, now in its third year under the canopies of St. Norbert Farmers' Market. Wear comfy shoes, because you'll be strolling from stall to stall in the open air, chatting with chefs and sampling what they've done with the freshest picks of the season. One word of advice: pace yourself. If you find a main dish you love, go easy. There's still the salads, sides, desserts, coffees and cider. PS: Bring your own wine glass and you get $5 off your ticket.

Beyond St. Norbert
Sure St. Norbert is the biggest and most popular farmers' market in the province, but her siblings should not be overlooked-all 40 or so of them. If you have a hankering for fresh zucchini, chances are you can find it close to home. The Farmers' Markets Association of Manitoba lists them all, along with closing dates.

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