It’s 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29.
A dozen cars are parked outside the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market, waiting for the doors to open at 9 a.m.
At the entrance, Jean Kimpinski and Dan Steele are setting up to sell tickets for a raffle, which will be part of the Parkinson SuperWalk set for Sept. 9 at HMCS Queen Charlotte.
“We’re feeling optimistic,” says Steele, president of the P.E.I. chapter of Parkinson Canada.
Across the driveway, vendors are peddling fresh produce and Island-made products to customers from trailers and tent-like structures.
At the Celyddon Farms booth, Colin Hughes is hawking tomatoes under an awning. After getting an early start, the Lower Montague resident is looking forward to his first sale.
“It’s going to be a great day. There’s a nice breeze,” says Hughes with a warm smile, adding that a cruise ship in the Charlottetown harbour means more business.
In a shaded area nearby, Sharon Belong fires up the barbecue to grill some sausages. Later these will be dressed up with mustard, ketchup and relish and placed in a bun to be purchased inside by customers from the Island Taylored Meats booth.
At 9 a.m. the front doors open, and customers and vendors rush toward Caledonia House where Patrick Bunston is serving coffee.
Waiting in line for a cappuccino offers a great opportunity to meet new people, like Ellen Burge, who has a pottery booth nearby.
“I love the market. I always look forward to coming because it’s a social day for me. I get to see some old friends and visitors who come back every year,” says Burge, sipping coffee from one of her new mugs.
By 10 a.m., the parking lot is full. Inside, the smell of perogies and sizzle of cabbage rolls draws customers to Lori Jaworski’s booth.
After 26 years, she’s a veteran at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market. And this morning she has brought along her daughter, Veronica MacDonald, to help her out at Grandma Jaworski's Foods.
In between loading plates with cabbage rolls or perogies (served with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of chives) she likes to talk.
“The market has given me a community of people that I get to meet once a week in the winter and twice a week in the summer, with no fail. Lobie Daughton is one of my favourite faces. I got to meet my best friend, Karin Zaat LaRonde Antolick, here. So, it’s been an amazing experience.”
Meeting people at the market is also a happy experience for Willow Rutherford-Torlone, who has been coming to the market ever since she was a baby and has worked at Lady Baker Tea for the past three years.
It’s a great job, says Willow, 16, who sells hot tea, iced tea, bulk tea and other items from the booth.
Besides making sales, she likes the “community feeling” that comes with being a market regular.
“Everyone here is like family. The people I work with directly are all amazing. The same can be said for the other vendors at the market. So, every week it’s really nice to see everybody and get updates on their lives. I’ve also met a lot of customers who I enjoy talking to every week. It’s a great place to see them.”
At noon, people are lining up at the various food services. But, unlike Saturdays, it’s not crowded, so there’s plenty of breathing room.
At Gallant’s Shellfish and Seafood, the offerings are impressive. There is everything from seafood chowder and scallops wrapped with bacon to lobster grilled cheese and, of course, the popular oysters in the shell.
It’s a far cry from four years ago when chefs Carson and Tyler Gallant first opened up at the market.
“Starting off, we only had a three-foot booth. We bought a case of oysters and we ran out the first day, so we bought another case. And we went from there. Our first few menu items were crab cakes and bacon-wrapped scallops, and it just caught on.
“Fast-forward to 2018, we have a nice booth and a couple of extra feet,” smiles Tyler.
At 1 p.m. Pascal LeCours, takes a break from strumming his guitar at the entrance of the market to talk with people.
The singer-songwriter, who is from Edmonton, Alta., has been performing regularly at the popular market on Belvedere Avenue. It’s his third summer on P.E.I.
“I come back because of the amazing people whether it’s the vendors, great weather and great music – whether it’s me playing or me hearing someone else play. And it’s twice a week in the summer.”
After working with the 70 vendors at the market this summer, manager Bernie Plourde likes the positive vibes coming from this “cultural feature of the Island”.
“People are looking to socialize, and the market provides a safe environment for them to meet their neighbours. Tourists visit, meet farmers, get a taste of Island life and the local economy because everything is local.”
At 2 p.m., the end of the market day, Steele is amazed with the response he received from marketgoers buying Parkinson Super Walk raffle tickets.
“We had an opportunity to talk to people who had family members with Parkinson’s disease. This sort of community outreach is as important as the fundraising we do.”
P.E.I. farmers’ markets
- Murray Harbour Farmer's Market – Saturdays, 9 a.m. to noon
- Charlottetown Farmers Market, open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, year-round; Wednesdays, until Oct. 3
- Summerside Farmers Market, 250 Water St., open Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
- Downtown Charlottetown Farmers Market, Sundays until Sept. 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Pop up market at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown (Legacy Gardens), Thursdays, 4-7 p.m.
- Cardigan Farmers Market, 338 Station Rd., Cardigan, Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- George's Island Market in Central Bedeque, Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sundays, noon to 4 p.m.
- For a complete listing, check out the Island Food Map by Cindy Richards, https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=15IVbYOfz5vlgGsrvtbj5EiQxmO6n9bx9&ll=46.227872913241015%2C-62.76042943359374&z=9.