Niagara Falls farmers market season to start this month

The Niagara Falls farmers market is to open for its last season at a temporary location as it prepares to operate year-round starting next year at the city’s new culture hub.

This season will begin May 14, and continue every Saturday until Oct. 29, rain or shine, between 7 am and 1 pm at MacBain Community Center.

The market, in the parking lot at Montrose and McLeod roads, features local farmers, growers, makers and bakers. Marketgoers can expect a range of offerings, including prepared food, asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries, said city staff.

The market has operated out of the spacious parking lot at MacBain since 2020. It had, for more than 50 years, been at Sylvia Place near Main and Ferry streets.

The market was relocated to MacBain while construction of the new Niagara Falls Exchange culture hub occurs at Sylvia Place. Expected to be completed by October, the facility will be the new home for the farmers market, providing a space for it to operate year-round with more vendors.

“MacBain Community Center has been a great place for us during COVID,” said Janet Zylstra, the farmers market co-ordinator for the city.

“We had already planned on being at an alternate site when we knew that the development of the Niagara Falls Exchange was going to be in development. It’s maybe been a little bit (longer) than we hoped for, but at the same time it’s been a wonderful venue for our farmers market.”

She said the market has seen an increase in visitors and vendors during the past five years.

“When I took over the market four and a half years ago, we had a smaller amount of vendors — probably 10 to 15, and now we’re up to 30,” said Zylstra.

“Our traffic has been really fabulous. I think probably COVID has been a piece of it because things weren’t open, but also the visibility of location (at MacBain).”

She said the market welcomed more than 31,000 visitors during six months of Saturdays last year.

The market also received the 2021 Farmers’ Market of the Year Award of Excellence from Farmers’ Markets Ontario. The award recognizes an outstanding farmers market that is exemplary in adding value to the community.

Zylstra said she’s excited to see how the market will continue to grow when it moves to the Exchange site.

“I think the wonderful thing about that is it will allow us to operate the market all year round, and having indoor/outdoor space,” she said.

“The outdoor space is ideal for farmers to be able to set up in a meaningful way and to be able to unload their farm products, and the indoor space also allows for more food vendors and it’s a great way to be able to run a market on inclement weather days.”

Zylstra said she believes the market, and the new multi-use facility, will be a destination and a “beacon in rejuvenating” the Main Street area.

“Farmers markets definitely have had a growing presence in lots of communities, and I think based on a lot of information out there is communities that have strong markets are really positive places to live.”

Once completed, the Exchange development is expected to become a vibrant center of activity in the community by providing shared spaces where artists, musicians, food vendors and patrons, and businesses can come together and create, said city officials.

The facility will include a large culture and market hall, café, artist studios, creative workshop and public washrooms surrounded by two multifunctional civic plazas that interconnect the flanking streets.

The market hall, which will house the regularly scheduled farmers market, will be a space for other events that include music, theatre, lectures and other weekend markets.

For more information on the market, visit www.niagarafalls.ca/living/market. For more information about the new culture hub, visit https://nfexchange.ca.

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