September 30, 2020

Winnipeg
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Healthy

Jardins St-Léon Garden / Glenwood

A sign out front reads "Fermé," but the gate is slightly ouverte, which means Colin Rémillard is already hidden somewhere in Jardins St-Léon Garden, drinking his morning coffee and enjoying the precious calm before the marketplace begins its daily descent into organized madness ahead of the weekend rush.

The market’s shelves — normally overflowing with hundreds of fruits, vegetables, pastries and breads — are temporarily bare.

Megan Kinsman and Emma Borger prepare the shelves.

Megan Kinsman and Emma Borger prepare the shelves.

Each morning, a collection of teenage- to 20-something staff prep hundreds of kilograms of produce, recutting and rewashing, separating the cream of the crop from the rejects that are past their prime.

Kenan Kamanga and Blake Hunnie prepare the berry baskets.

Kenan Kamanga and Blake Hunnie prepare the berry baskets.

For nearly three hours, with a soundtrack of late-'90s emo-rock blaring, they move like bilingual, agronomic automatons — from the refrigerator, to the sink, to the cart, to the display — ahead of the first customer's arrival at 9 o’clock.

"No matter how much we get done, it’s always a struggle at 8:59," says Rémillard, a gangly 23-year-old redhead who owns the market with his siblings, Luc and Janele, and a cousin, Daniel, who drove to Portage la Prairie at 4 a.m., to collect the last of the strawberry harvest.

A dozen deliveries — radishes, spinach, cauliflower, beans and small potatoes — are slated to arrive throughout the day while hundreds of customers do their shopping.

The young Rémillards — all under 30 — have directed this ballet for several years, but the nagging fear that time will run out before patrons waltz in never goes away.

Colin Rémillard, co-owner of St-Léon Garden, tests the freshness of some corn in the refrigerator.

Colin Rémillard, co-owner of St-Léon Garden, tests the freshness of some corn in the refrigerator.

By 7 a.m., the shelves are about half-stocked, and Rémillard is half-stoked. "It’s mad in here," he says with a cob of sweet Georgia corn in his hand and the bright yellow evidence stuck in his teeth.

"Still so much left to do."

— Ben Waldman
Photography by John Woods

hors d'oeuvre
12 am
1 am
2 am
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7 am
8 am
9 am
10 am
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Noon
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11 pm
Dessert
Nightcap

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