Daytrips: St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market

On Sunday, while in Waterloo, we went a few clicks further north to visit St. Jacob’s. I was in dire need of fresh-picked apples, and hoped we’d have time to visit the farmers’ market.

The huge market in St. Jacob’s is open on Thursdays and Saturdays all through the year. Sundays are much smaller, but still with a choice of farm-grown goodies.

While there, I was drawn to this profusion of lilies – Asiatics, Orientals, trumpets, all blooming at once – and started chatting with the grower.

Have you ever wondered where all the fresh-cut lilies come from? They come from people like this fellow who buys his lily bulbs in a dormant frozen state, and controls his bloom times by staged plantings throughout the growing season. As they’re frozen with a full root system, not dessicated the way bulbs sold in sacks of sphagnum can be, they don’t waste any time developing new roots.

Batches planted earlier in the season might take 10 weeks to bloom; those planted later, when the sun is stronger, might take a few weeks less. But nature often has its own ideas about timing.

He sells his unsold lilies – like a big order that bloomed too late for a wedding – by the pot at the market. Ridiculously affordable. I was most sorely tempted but, with my Grand Simplification underway, had to resist.

Apples were what brought me there, and I was on the hunt for sweet, crisp, refreshing ‘Honey Crisp’ apples, which come into season in mid-September. I scored some ‘Royal Gala’ and, that ultimate cooking apple, ‘Northern Spy’ first before finding my intended quarry at the organic stand at the top of this post.

St. Jacob’s is a pretty little town, about an hour and a half’s drive from Toronto, and since we first visited it this time last year, we’ve promised ourselves we’ll go there more often.

Here are some scenes from last year’s visit.

The view from the bridge over the Conestogo River which runs through the town.

Downtown’s blend of trendy and homespun is perhaps on the cusp of being over-commercialized. But the goodies from this bakery were worth elbowing our way to an umbrella table for.

On a back street, we accidentally stumbled on the fantastic salvage shop, Artefacts. Here, not only is there great stuff, but it’s cleverly arranged to make you want it all. Very badly.

Plenty of things there for garden applications, too, including this arbour and mirror combo, which, if you look very closely, captures a shot of yours truly.

 

The area is home to a large community of old-order Mennonites, some of whom still use horse-drawn carriages as everyday transportation. This, frankly, is one reason St. Jacob’s has become such a tourist attraction. I actually wonder how they feel about being “an attraction.” As producers of much of the farm goods, quilts and furniture in the market, though, I guess the crowds who come to shop (and gawk) allow them to make a living.

Another world, just a short drive away from home.

P.S. I forgot to mention, we were surprised to learn that St. Jacob’s is the birthplace (and still head office) of Home Hardware, a Canadian retailer that competes against big guys like Home Depot and Lowe’s. This is the original store.

7 comments

  1. St. Jacob's has lost much of its charm as it's really grown as a tourist destination.

    The Farmer's Market is 80% Flea Market, 10% non-local produce (there's actually one booth that has US produce), and 10% legit local produce. No more than four or five stalls are actually held by Mennonites. Many people dress up for the day. No Mennonites will be open for business on Sundays.

    It's certainly worth visiting but it's been greatly devalued by the overcommercialization of the area. I do try to go frequently as the Hamilton Market is a dump and the Ancaster and Dundas Markets are preposterously overpriced.

    If you're going to go to the market, aim to be there before 9 am and be out well before 11; it gets insanely busy later than that. You also get better selection and room to think if you get there early.

  2. Thanks for your comments, everyone.

    Nick, Careful, you'll turn me into a cynic! But I can assure you that no one was trying to pass themselves off in costume on Sunday, which was what I expected. Hope I didn't seem to suggest otherwise. The few stalls we shopped from on Sunday did have signs up assuring us they grew their own.

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