You know how on movies when someone is in pain or needs to activate pixie dust, they tell them to “think of your happy place”? For me, it’s a sunny Sunday morning at the Memorial Center Farmer’s Market, mid summer.
There’s always music going, *everyone* is in a happy and relaxed mood, there are dogs everywhere, and the bounty of nature and spirit of community are all around you. If you’re from Kingston downtown, plan to see everyone you’ve ever met. It’s also the place of Kingston’s only vegan all you can eat buffet. Hear me out. There are literally endless options to get good eats, and you can get as many as your pocket book will allow. (I do realize that for many people, that’s not “all you can eat”-but for the sake of this article’s flow, bear with me. And also, if you’re ever hungry and your pocketbook doesn’t allow it-come see us, we’re frequently happy to barter, trade or PWYC ) While summer is my happy place, the market is still vibrant and alive during winter-and it gets a cozy vibe that you’ll love, just wear a hat and bring your dog.
This market also takes climate change seriously, and are leading the way as a group to encourage change in consumer habits. Things such as a basket where people can bring extra reusable bags they have for people who forgot theirs, vendors (such as ourselves) who use glass plates, real utensils and cloth napkins, compostable bags, and discounts if you bring your own containers from home. Everyone works together to accomplish big things.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was “never start a business until people are begging for it”, and then I’ll also add my own- an obvious hole in the market that you have the skills and passion to fill. With that in mind, that is the story of how *we* began at the Memorial Center Farmer’s Market.
Jolene, who is one of the go-to folks at the market has been a friend and dance party buddy for many years and kept asking us to apply. We dragged our feet in a big way for a few reasons: A) We love hanging out at the market so much, that we were wary of turning our favorite place into work. B) We both hate mornings, and give our best service starting quite a bit later in the day. C) We weren’t quite that organized at that point in our business and didn’t know how we would logistically do it. D) Mornings, again. I’m happy to report that a year in, we love this part of our job and are so happy that Jolene was so relentless in her pursuit.
However, I will caution you that the first half hour of the market being open at the Knifey Spooney booth is generally not our finest work. Just this past week we forgot the cords to our griddles, and then on the trip back to get them we ran out of gas. We have also been locked out of our home, where essential tools were, and have brought a pop up tent to a pouring day at the market to realize it had no roof. So, you could say it’s a work in progress.
The best part of the market is that it’s a collaborative effort, so while we get our shit together-you can have a stroll and visit some of the other incredible friendors we share space with. Might I recommend, in no particular order:
Real Food Micro Farm
What to Get: I will admit that I have a heavy bias here. Tammara has been by friend since we had toddlers, and I think everything she does is wonderful. BUT. My favorites are: lime or lemon raw cheezecake (Rad and I once had a fight because he said Tam’s cheezecake was the best he’d ever had, and that hurt my feelings because I also make vegan cheezecake. I’ve since come to terms with it, and in this case am okay being the second best cheezecake maker. He thinks the plain with strawberry topping is the winner every time though.) I also love the apple cinnamon cashew dip, with flax apple crackers. Everything she makes is raw, and I know for fact infused with love in a sunny greenhouse on her idealic farm in Gananoque. The micro greens she grows are so fantastic and available year round-honestly a perfect way to get local greens during the winter. She sells out early, so order online at http://www.realfoodmicrofarm.com to ensure you don’t miss out, or you can have it delivered. Tammara is one of the vendors leading the way in sustainability, finding conventionally compostable packaging and providing glass reusables. During the warmer months, Tammara’s farm provides beautiful edible flowers that could make even the most basic meal look gourmet.
Main Street Market Urban Farm
What to Get: Another heavy bias here. I met Tim and Tracy nearly ten years ago when I was first moving from Texas to Kingston. I think they are some of the neatest and kindest humans on earth, and I know you’ll love them too. They really walk the walk in terms of environmental stewardship, travelling by bike or foot-*with their three children*, literally everywhere they go. Yes, even in the middle of winter.
They farm out of Oak Street Community Garden and also share space with us at our commercial kitchen inside Next Church. You can get their Okinomiyaki, a savory Japanese gluten free pancake, delivered to you in one of the six languages that they speak collectively.
Within a single mile, they have grown the vegetables, right down to the garlic which has been dehydrated into powder for preservation. It’s served hot, with incredibly tasty add ins (get them all), vegan mayo, and if you want the “Rad Special”, it’s going to come to you smothered in their own one of a kind hot sauce (which Rad swears is his favorite in all the world-a high compliment indeed) and plenty of their house grown and made kimchi. They also have crunchy and beautiful veggies all through winter, both at the market and through a weekly CSA.
What to Get: Xiaobing’s dumplings have kept us alive for many years now. One of the things that I missed the most after going vegan was eating dim sum, so was certainly delighted to find somewhere to get traditional Chinese steamed buns. Long Road Eco Farm in Frontenac County is where all the magic happens. With veggies, herbs and spices grown there-it’s an incredible treat to get local dim sum and our community agrees. You’ll often find long lines to get dumplings, and vegan flavors tend to sell out early. Our favorites are the tofu veggie and marinated tofu-both come alive with their fermented green beans and Tim and Tracy’s hot sauce from next door.
Kelly’s Gourmet Mushrooms
What to get: We were so excited this when great mushroom farm started in our area. They are our main source for local vegan protein, and we love each of the varieties of mushrooms they sell. Oyster, Shitake, Lion’s Mane-all are the freshest, “meatiest”, most nutrient dense delight. We use the Oyster shrooms to make pulled “pork” for our summer BBQ pulled pork nachos, and in winter the Lion’s Mane are seared and braised overnight to create the “beefy” filling of our French dip baguette sammie. They even sell kits for you to grow them at home-the most local of all.
What to get: I have to warn you, that once you have a bite of these crisp and flavorful local apples, it will be hard for you to be satisfied at the grocery store again. Grown right in our area, you can get vegan pies, hot apple cider or to take home and about 8 varieties of most delicious apples you can buy. Most Sundays, you’ll get ’em from Aiden, one of our best customers and a dedicated climate change activist in our community-she started Fridays for Future in our area and is a young person way cooler than we were at that age.
What to get: When Audrey began creating some of her best selling artisan chocolates into vegan versions, it was all over for us. She lets you reuse the same Tiffany blue box as many times as you want, which means of course you keep them. But we never remember to bring them back, and we now have a Cocoa Bistro alter on a shelf, build out of the graveyards of all the chocolate we’ve ever eaten. Do we really eat that many? Yes. And you will too, once you realize what you’ve been missing. Our personal favorites are the Nuts for You (like a veganferrero roches), *the salted caramel*, and the cherry.
She aims for each chocolate to be an experience, and it really, really is.
Zia Rita’s Gluten Free
What to Get: I will admit that I’m quite the gluten free skeptic, but Rita has made me a believer. Things I’ve had and loved-cranberry walnut cookie, vegan cheesecake and the chia seed almond bread. We used a bread when we were doing a specialty gluten free charcutterie board and when sliced thin and baked, this bread makes the greatest crostini ever.
Hard Way Cider
What to Get: How fun is it to get a buzz *and* support someone’s business in your community? Enter Hard Way Cider, our new favorite Sunday evening tradition. I’m a wine lover, but Rad likes beer-so this bone dry cider is a perfect meet in the middle. Made from local apples and aged in old whiskey barrels-they have an incredible light taste without being too sweet. 10/10 would buy again.
Natasha’s Ukrainian Fine Foods
What to Get: Take home some potato and mushroom perogies. Why does everyone love perogies so much? Is it the carb on carb action, or is it the fact that they are so stinkin’ labour intensive to make at home? Regardless-vegan perogies made without fake vegan cheeze, available in ygk is a tasty new development that we’re pretty pumped about.
Winding Path Farm
What to Get: Lots of fresh sprouts and veggie, fresh vegan soups, almond chai and hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. They have a huge variety all the time, so make sure to stop by and check out what’s fresh and good.
Please note: I had an extraordinarily difficult time narrowing down this list to a readable length- this incredible market is filled to the brim with the freshest local food and most passionate local producers. I would love to have your feedback if I’ve forgotten your favorite and they serve vegan food-I’ll be sure to feature them next time. As for the rest, you can take my word for it, or you can meander out of bed on a Sunday morning to get a hug from your community and a feast for your belly.
Thank you Jolene Simcoe at the Memorial Center Farmer’s Market for the use of her pictures, and to the other friendors who’s pictures I’ve borrowed.