The two dozen vendors who set up stalls at Brantford’s farmers’ market every Friday and Saturday sell everything from baked goods and fresh produce to schnitzel and bird houses.
Located beside the parking garage on Icomm Drive, the market is a four-minute walk from Grand River Hall.
“There’s a lot of staples you can get here that at some markets you don’t get,” said vendor Sue Ecker, whose family-run business Harmony Pastry Shop & Cafe has been at the Brantford market for 27 years.
“My parents started the business and my sister and her husband run the bakery [in Simcoe],” said Ecker, “I just come here and sell.”
Most of the businesses in the market are family-run, whether long-time vendors like Ecker or new additions like Maple Point Farms, who use a natural composting system to grow fresh produce indoors during the winter—the family company started selling at the market at the beginning of January.
“There’s been a lot more learning than we thought we’d have to do,” said owner Paul Bootsma. “It was supposed to be really easy,” he laughed.
Things are looking up for Maple Point Farms, though, Bootsma says, excited to already see repeat customers during their first three weeks at the market.
Another vendor stall is shared by Nicole Hill, the hands (and heart) behind local made-from-scratch bakery Pies and Tarts From the Heart, and her husband, Chris, who runs his own catering company and sells some of his savoury dishes at the market.
The Hills have been vendors since 2017. When asked what it’s like to run the business in the midst of a pandemic, Chris said simply, “busy”.
For vendor Flor Salazar, owner of Florcita’s Classic Latin Foods, the latest lockdown in Ontario has been a blessing in disguise for her business.
“We’ve been very prosperous [because] with the shutdown, our work has increased,” said Salazar. “When they closed the restaurants, then [more] people started coming here [for takeout].”
Florcita’s has been a part of the market for about 12 years. Their menu is extensive with homemade empanadas, tacos, pupusas, chimichanga, chicken flautas and more, including a variety of gluten free options.
COVID did bring the market to a halt in the spring of 2020, but since then it has been open with restrictions and capacity limits in place.
“We did unfortunately lose a few vendors,” said Ecker. “There’s a few empty stalls around the market.”
She noted a downturn in attendance too, but says it is market regulars who have kept local vendors in business in the last two years. Laurier Brantford students are very much invited: “Tell them to come and shop local and get lots of goodies!” said Ecker.
Uncle Dad’s Meat Pies and Pizza, another family-run business based in London, has been a vendor at the market for about three years. They sell a variety of frozen thin-crust pizzas—one of their most popular orders is an unusual topping combination of mozzarella cheese, bacon and dill pickles.
There are also the classic farmers’ market offerings of cut meats, cheeses, eggs, a wide selection of bread and baked goods, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Jars of local honey and pure maple syrup line the counters across from the in-house kitchen concession stand that offers a full breakfast and lunch menu.
Right inside the market doors stationed next to a colourful Tupperware collection is long-time vendor Deb Fletcher, who began selling the brand’s products more than 40 years ago. Dan McCutcheon, best known as “Dan the Mushroom Man,” recently celebrated 50 years selling his produce at the market.
Vendors like Fletcher and McCutcheon embody the rich history of Brantford’s farmers’ market and bring its character—one of community, resilience and tradition—to life.
From 1848 to 1965, before the market moved to its current address, 79 Icomm Dr., it operated in the downtown core where the One Market building is now located. A timeline of framed photos hanging in the back of the current building shows the market bustling in its earliest decades.
The market is open year-round from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, with stalls set up outside every weekend from May to October.