Published in the Vancouver Observer.
If you cook for a family, or if you simply cook for yourself every day, you know that grocery shopping often happens more than once a week. Fresh produce only stays fresh for so long and leftovers only last a few meals. For those who religiously shop at farmer’s markets for their products they are put in a tough situation of either choosing a Safeway, Capers or Choices instead for their mid-week re-stock.
That was until the Main Street Station Farmers Market was born in 2009 offering an opportunity to support local farmers and producers all week long with a Wednesday evening market.
The Main Street Vancouver Farmers Market is the second youngest farmer’s market in Vancouver, and has developed quite a bit since it began. In such a crossroad’s neighborhood it is not only a farmer’s market but can act as a community builder between neighborhoods with consumers coming from many of the surrounding municipalities. Not only that but it is conveniently located on Skytrain and bus routes, making it accessible for anyone in Greater Vancouver, which is more than can be said for some of the “tucked away” farmer’s markets.
This market is similar to the other Vancouver Farmer’s Market as it provides customers with fresh, local produce, artisan baked goods, handcrafted cheese and chocolate, tasty food carts, and sustainable seafood. The main difference noticed is that due to the market hours of 3-7PM, there tends to be less line-ups and more time to actually converse with the producers. With such a heavy traffic flow at some of the other markets it’s hard to spend some time getting to know the vendors and really relishing in that satisfying farmer’s market experience.
As I perused all the vendors I saw Campagnolo owner/chef Rob Belcham selling freshly made pasta that is produced and prepared in his restaurant just a few steps away. Conveniently across from him was a vendor called Royal Herbs and to the right of that Sole Foods, selling ripe greenhouse tomatoes; a match made in heaven.
Rob Belcham is not the only chef that supports Vancouver Farmers Market, in fact chefs from all over Vancouver often frequent the weekend and weekday markets. The Wednesday Main Street Market offers them an opportunity to stock their kitchens during the week, maintaining a pantry and refrigerator full of fresh, local ingredients.
Big names such as Karen Barnaby (shown above), former executive chef of The Fish House, Angus An, chef and owner of Maenam, Ned Bell, executive chef at Yew, Andrea Carlson chef and owner of Burdock & Co., and Quang Dang, executive chef of West are all frequenters of the market. Some of them, like Karen Barnaby, were even browsing and buying products during my last visit.
Purchasing goods from farmer’s markets is just one way in which Vancouver Chefs support the local food movement. There is also a new feature added to the Farmer’s Market called Market Kitchen which includes cooking demonstrations by some of these top chefs. After the demo, market shoppers are offered a sampling and a recipe to take home. For more info on this Market Kitchen click here.
I spoke with many of the vendors during my visit and could pretty much write an essay about each and every one of them, but instead I’ll sum up a few of them in notes.
Small Pleasures – Delicious home baked goodies from Debbie and Dave. They have a loyal following and I know why! Check out their deadly chocolate brownie or one of their pies. Also noted: they use whole-wheat flour in all of their loaves.
AppleBarn – Two words: Apple Slushee. While this isn’t their main seller it is fantastic on a hot summer day. Sadly, I’m being a tease and it’s not available at the market and only at their location in Abbotsford, but why not try to make your own using some of their delicious organic apple juice? Or opt for the crunchy, sweet apple chips to pack for your next picnic.
Wild Harvest – Sea asparagus? I never knew it existed, but they sell it at the Main Street Farmer’s Market. Harvested in Sechelt this is a product worth sampling that may remind you of a briny crossbreed of asparagus and spinach.
Skipper Otto’s Wild BC Salmon – “Farmer’s markets provide great visibility for us. Our CSF members can pick up fish here and what we have leftover we sell and try to get them (consumers) hooked, so to speak.”
Gourmet Greens – Delicate, young vegetables and herbs that are harvested while tiny, tender and tasty. They can produce over 200 species of MicroGreens in their greenhouse while using 1/5th of the space it would take to grow on land. Now that’s sustainable!
Beer Brats – I love craft beer, and I love meat. Why waste your time adding water to sausages when you can add beer to give it the extra bit of flavour. Nitrate free and delicious these sausages are a must for the shopping list, especially during BBQ season.
Off The Wagon – With options like the Al Pastor (pulled pork), and the Yam and Black Bean taco these little guys are great snacks for carnivores and vegetarians alike. Not to mention celiacs as all of their tacos are gluten-free with corn-based shells.
Blue Smoke BBQ – Fancy a squealer (pulled pork), a clucker (chicken) or a beef brisket? Here’s the place to get it. These are messy burgers so grab a napkin or two.
Jane’s Honey Bees – Fraser Valley beekeepers bringing you a wide variety of honey from berry plants. Right now it’s blueberry honey season! Don’t let the name of the honey deceive you though as I learned that it is named as such because the bees are foraging on blueberry flowers and the honey doesn’t actually taste like blueberries. It does however hold a distinct flavour.
Little Qualicum Cheeseworks – Famous for their Rathtrevor cheese and their great service and endless sampling. Go check it out, with all of the choices you’ll certainly find a kind you like.
PureBread – Known for their legendary line-ups, their artisan bread and their decadent desserts PureBread is a great addition to the Vancouver Farmer’s Market. It’s a one-stop shop for all your carb-a-licious desires.
Pâté Pastiche – A combination of many superfoods including golden flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and buckwheat. Available in a variety of flavours: Market Herb, Sunshine Tomato, Forest Mushroom.
SOLEfood – A social enterprise that provides urban agriculture employment and training opportunities for Vancouver’s inner-city residents. Community residents are trained and employed to install and manage small production farms on leased urban lots. Their goal is to help revitalize neighbourhoods and provide meaningful employment to individuals with challenges while supplying delicious produce from sweet chocolate peppers to Tyee spinach.
These are just a few of the many amazing vendors at the Main Street Farmers Market. To find out what else is there, come down next Wednesday from 3-7PM and check it out!
For more images from the market check out my set on flickr.