North Enders need not travel across town for a trip to the farmers market.
Five years ago, North End Food Security Network (NEFSN) — a component of the North End Community Renewal Corporation — resurrected the Main Street Farmers’ Market. According to NEFSN food security coordinator Jasmine Tara, the market has existed on and off since the 1930s.
Located in Neechi Commons’ parking lot (865 Main St.), the Main Street Farmers’ Market started its season on July 4 and runs every Friday from noon to 5 p.m. until Sept. 19.
Tara, who operates the market along with her colleague Melissa McDonald, said the market has 18 vendors signed up for the summer, with an average of eight to 10 vendors setting up at the space any given Friday. She said there is no fee for vendors and that insurance, tables, canopies and other costs are covered by grants from Assiniboine Credit Union and other organizations.
Currently, there isn’t a lot of fresh produce at the market, but Tara said she expects farmers to start showing up in early August. In the meantime, there is fresh food available from the market’s "youth tables."
"We’re doing stuff with youth where they pick from community gardens and make their own crafts and things and they can sell the product and get a 100 per cent of the profit," Tara said.
"The gardens are starting to be harvested in the North End and there are over 20 community gardens in the area. North End Food Security Network is also a resource to those gardens and we got some big grants to be able to go build new boxes, fill things with soil and plant beautiful vegetables so now the kids can pick them and sell them."
Tara said the market partially addresses the healthy food shortage issue in the North End.
"That is a concern and it is a reason for the market," Tara said. "As the years go by, there’s more and more healthy food in the North End, with the Main Street Farmers’ Market, Neechi Commons, the Good Food Box program, which is through Winnipeg FoodShare Co-op. All these different programs are giving people a hand up so they can come and get affordable healthy food into their home. It’s a right, not a privilege."
Anandakumar Palanichamy, manager of business development at Nutrich Beets, is one of the vendors at the market. Palanichamy sells products made from beets grown in Portage la Prairie, including ketchup, hot sauce, juice and dip. He feels the Main Street Farmers’ Market is the perfect place to sell his healthy beet-based product.
"The North End, this is the place where the malnutrition is highly prevalent, so I thought this is a place to promote a healthy product," Palanichamy said.
"Last week was a decent sale here, but how much you sell isn’t important, because you get the distributors and retailers here. In one of the farmers’ markets, it wasn’t a particularly good day for any of the businesses, but I got an order from a store right from my table. You meet the people here."