September 30, 2020

Farmers’ market one of Kitchener’s most important and oldest institutions

By ERIC MCKENZIE

The Kitchener farmers’ market, since moving to the Cedar Street location in 2004, has become the eastern entranceway to the downtown market district. Surrounded by a rich blend of culturally diverse restaurants and shops, it offers a unique, cosmopolitan experience in Kitchener’s downtown.

“Many of the surrounding stores and restaurants in this neighbourhood are ethnic and very culturally diverse. It helps them generate business and strengthen culture,” said Kim Feere, manager of the economic development division of the Kitchener market.

The Kitchener farmers’ market is among the oldest consistently operating markets in Canada, with over 130 years of community experience. The market is a proud tradition in the city, with old businesses passed down in families from parents to their children. Such is the case with Cressman Meats, which sells fresh pork and beef products. It has  been passed down through four generations, said Murray Cressman.

“Our family used to sell meat to settlers in the 1800s,” he said.

It all began in the 1830s, when farmers who produced more than their families could consume, held outdoor markets in the Village of Berlin to share their abundance with others.

The first permanent market structure was built in 1869. That year, town council approved the expenditure of $7,000 to construct a two-storey town hall to house the farmers’ market, council chambers, a public library and a post office.

By 1872, the market had grown so popular that the initial site became too crowded and a new market building was needed. It was constructed behind the town hall. This building was home to the market for 35 years.

In 1907, the farmers’ market was built on the same site to accommodate the growing population. A two-storey red brick building was constructed and served as the location of the farmers’ market for well over 60 years.

In 1973, the Market Square building, a downtown Kitchener shopping mall, became home to the  market. A brochure announcing the market’s anticipated move made a commitment to residents stating “there’ll always be a market in Kitchener.”

Its new home on King Street, between Eby and Cedar streets, holds over a hundred vendors in the lower and upper levels. Also on the upper levels international cuisine and artisan merchants can be found selling their food and wares.

 Whether it’s fruits, vegetables, organic produce, dairy, meat, poultry, fish, baked goods, sweets, honey, maple syrup, flowers or arts and crafts you are looking for, you’ll find it at one of Kitchener’s oldest institutions.

Some of the most unique international dishes can be found at Caribbean Cuisine, Almadina Egyptian Cuisine or the Mexican Casa Salsa on the second level, which celebrate not only these cultures’ rich identities but also Canada’s and Kitchener’s identity as a country and a community that accepts and encourages multiculturalism.

“The market has become a part of our cultural identity and is rooted in our heritage. It is, and will always be, an integral part of the community,” said Feere.

The Kitchener Market operates Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.