Last week I had an opportunity to visit the Vancouver Farmers' Market at Trout Lake with good friend Lady J. There are a lot of Vancouver Farmers' Markets here, actually, there's some in Kitsilano, Main St., Kerrisdale, and more - and you can always find that information on their website.
The Vancouver Farmers Markets are all about fresh food and local products. They are passionate about providing healthy food networks that support sustainability especially in our community. Also known as Your Local Farmers Market Society, their goal is to spread awareness of agricultural issues that face our urban society. Personally, I enjoy going to Farmers Markets because they not only provide healthy, organic and sustainable food, everyone seems to be passionate about what they are doing and always wear a smile on their faces. You can see it with how they grow their produce, or create their products -- the happiness and the fulfillment in doing what you're passionate about, is something quite notable. As a young individual looking to have her own business one day, our Vancouver Farmers Market vendors are especially inspiring to me.
Lady J and I headed over to the John Hendry Park / Trout Lake a little later in the morning, around 11. The Market opens at 9, and we encourage you to head as early as possible, as goods will run out! A majority of the people who head to the farmers market are actually locals who live in and around the area, but of course there are also some tourists. That being said, the market also encourages people to walk, cycle or to take transportation. In fact, they have a bike valet! Isn't that neat?? Parking is very limited! I'll provide more tips later how to get there.
At 11 AM the market was pretty packed with lots of people! The Trout Lake market is basically a long line of shops on your left and on your right providing fresh produce, baked goods, seafood, cheese, and the non-food items like jewelry, artwork, and more! Lady J's actually in this photo - if you can find her. At this point in time, she's actually looking for me - while I'm still stuck in the middle of the crowd taking photos as I felt like a little kid in a candy shop.
One thing so beautiful about heading to these farmers markets is that you can get all these wonderful greens - fresh and organic, and just the amount you need them to be! Like this little shoppe, where you basically fill up your bag of greens - pick all you want, and then they will just weigh it and charge accordingly. They also sell herb plants, and bunches of herbs which are great if you don't have a green thumb, like me! And they're all at a reasonable price too! Like this $2 bunch of basil leaves that Lady J and I decided to split - $1 for half a BUNCH?? DEAL.
It was definitely one of the first few sunny summer weekends in Vancouver so seeing organic ice cream in a cart looked so inviting!!
Tip # 1: Bring cash! Not all of the vendors carry debit cards or credit cards, so cash is one way to go. Another form of payment is called "market money", where I think you can pay using your debit cards/credit cards so you don't have to hold so much cash.
While looking around - I saw a sign that said "Maple Candy". Quickly, I just had to find out what this is all about! The friendly guy shared to us that what he was making was called Maple Taffy! It's basically "sugar on snow". It's made by boiling maple sap past the point of making maple syrup, and then pouring it on snow, or ice in this case, and then using a popsicle stick to form this delicious "sugar on a stick". It is part of tradition especially in Quebec. And of course, the little stall was also serving a variety of these unique maple candies which I never seen before.
And of course, what's the market without some fresh greens grown from own backyard? I must admit, I'm terrible at naming vegetables. I had lots of fun making a fool of myself trying to guess what vegetable was what, and Lady J and I couldn't help but laugh at my horrible guesses.
Now this is something you don't see everyday! Kohlrabi. The first time I heard of this vegetable, believe or not, was actually on Food Network's Chopped! It was one of the basket ingredients. It actually tasted really good - the lady had some to encourage people to taste it. They look pretty alienlike I must say. :)
Herbs galore! And everything else dried! At the market, there's definitely no shortage of these wonderful ingredients that can make meals extra special. And to carry all these vegetables, the market usually provides plastic to contain them, but ... Tip # 2 Reusable bags are a must-bring! Even if they would provide you with plastic... why not bring your own to help the environment? Bring a couple of them... there's lots to buy at the market!
"Fresh off the boat" is one of the few vendors at the Trout Lake market that sells seafood. Lady J and I bought their sablefish and they were extremely fresh and delicious. Something that really sets buying fresh seafood apart from the smelly seafood you sometimes find at supermarkets!
Can't go wrong with freshly baked bread right? This is something you would also see at the market - lots of bakeries that would sell fresh bread made from the most unique ingredients. Some are also great for sensitive tummies as well!
And to be honest, I'm just so blown away by the design and elements of a lot of the stalls - some were so rustic, and vintage and just so pretty! I like this sign that says "Man cannot live on bread alone... have a brownie as well!"
Tip # 3 Talk to the vendors! Everyone at the market has a story - so ask questions and learn about their products a little more. I got a chance to really talk to these two lovely people at Pate Pastiche. I learned that their spreads are all using local, organic, ingredients and they are all vegan and gluten-free! I tasted a couple and they blew my mind! Who needs meat?? They also challenged me to eat a flower - not just the petals or the leaves, but the entire thing! And guess what? I did, and it was delicious. Now I want to learn how to identify if flowers are edible or not!
And on trying random things, Lady J and I saw a stall that sold sprouts and this one in particular caught my eye. I was like, what are popcorn shoots? Shoots that taste like popcorn? And the guy manning the booth answered "Yes. In fact, they're made from corn kernels that were supposed to be used for popcorn. Here, try some!" And they were so intense! The flavour did taste like popcorn... and it had a buttery aftertaste. WOW-Y! It's definitely a unique experience altogether. Tip # 4 TRY! Try something especially when you've gotten the opportunity to do so. Especially with organic food... get out of your comfort zone and be amazed at the many different things nature gives us to experience.
Now I couldn't help but notice this woodworks stall - C knows how I LOVE texture and distressed wood. Mye, a good friend of mine, even collects distressed wooden textures for her photoshoots. (Mye, I'm sure you'll love these!!) And they were all so unique and reasonably priced! A definite must have for your kitchen is a good chopping board(s) - for the different needs you have in the kitchen!
And this is Lady J's favorite soap shop, The Other Eden! Kay Wong makes these wonderfully-smelling handmade soaps and other beauty products like balms and oils that all have their special story behind why she made them. Like the Working Hands' Soap, which was made because her husband works in constructions and would often go home with grimy hands and needed a great smelling soap that would not only remove hard dirt, but also reenergize and moisturize his hands. And her packaging is just beautiful! She really inspires me to open my own shop one day!
On the more random things you can find at the Vancouver's Farmers Market are these predatory plants - they're great for your garden because they can get rid of your pests organically! I think it's a brilliant idea! I've never actually seen venus fly traps - only from the Discovery Channel, haha!
And if you're hungry, there's also a number of food trucks that serve delicious food like crepes! There was such a long line up... so maybe next time I can try it :)
And true to the market's sustainable nature, they also have a food scraps area so that you would refrain from littering - and so that they can do something productive with our food scraps! :)
And on that note, concludes my trip to the Farmers Market. It was a really enriching experience and I think that it's definitely going to be a place that I'd frequent because of the fresh food that the vendors sell... and because it's great to support the local and entrepreneurial market. I definitely recommend this place for both locals and tourists alike. It reflects a lot of what we Vancouverites stand for in sustainability and community.
What you need to know:
A lot of the information you'd need to know is available on the Vancouver Farmers Market website. It is located in John Hendry Park, on 13th Avenue and Lakewood in Vancouver.
They're open 9AM - 2PM each week. They also have a membership you may want to consider, since they have a member discount!
How to get there: walk, cycle, take the transit (buses), and by car. There is no parking on 13th Avenue from Lakewood to Victoria, but further west you can park by the streets.