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Alberta Farmers’ Markets

The sweet smell of newly baked bread. The tangy taste of freshly squeezed lemonade. The spirited sound of a frisky fiddle tune! These are a few of the attractions that may greet you on a visit to a Farmers’ Market. Young Connor enjoys going with his mom to their local Farmers’ Market. He enthusiastically nibbles on the yummy cheese samples and dances to the lively fiddle music. His mom loves the market’s juicy red strawberries.

These days, Alberta Farmers’ Markets offer a rich mosaic of choices. The Alberta Farmers’ Market Association believes in supporting local and even gives awards to their vendors who ‘bake it, grow it or produce it.’ They encourage products that are local and unique. For example, Andreas and Mary Ellen Grueneberg operate their Green Eggs and Ham Farm in Leduc where they focus on unusual and heritage vegetables. Depending on the season, shoppers will find multicolored beans, carrots, beets - and even golf ball shaped carrots along with duck eggs and turkey products sold at their Calgary and Edmonton market stalls.

At Alberta Farmers’ Markets, you are likely to find juicy berries, organic vegetables, fragrant herbs and cheeses so fresh you can almost hear the cows mooing. You will see colorful canopies covering precious displays of a rainbow of delicious seasonal items, everything from A to Z: apples to zucchinis, asparagus to zinnias. There will be unique one-of-a-kind crafts, rare bedding plants and eggs so fresh you can almost hear the chickens clucking. There will be friendly chats and recipe sharing with helpful vendors on topics such as how to make a tasty smoothie. Did you know that adding spinach to your strawberry smoothie is a great way to get more green nutrition? And heavens, we should probably all eat more spinach!

The markets tend to present a relaxed, fun, family-friendly environment. Whether in city or rural areas, there is a ‘country fair’ atmosphere. It’s about strolling, sampling and slowing down your shopping experience. You won’t find any high-tech price scanners or flashing neon signs. Each market will offer its own unique offering of diverse goods; no two displays alike and no repetitive corporate branding here! Each vendor will show you some of their own personality and style, all coming together to offer us some of the best that Alberta farmers and artisans have to offer. You can feel the heart and soul that the dedicated vendors share with customers.

Many markets go out of their way to see that children are entertained. It’s quite common to see children proudly showing off their decorative face painted designs while swaying to toe tapping music. And often you will see mom and child holding hands and spontaneously springing into a jig dance in front of that frisky fiddler.

May to October is the high season for visits, but some are open year-round. Why not take the whole family and visit a Farmers’ Market? It’s a great chance to give your children a food experience and show them that not all food comes encased in square boxes.

To help make your market trip easier, there is an excellent helpful directory and map of markets at albertamarkets.com/markets. And Young Connor says, don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bag!

Farmers’ Markets are a great direct source of local fare. Whether near or a little bit far, there is a plentiful harvest of markets to choose from:

Airdrie Farmers’ Market - Open 3:30 to 7pm, June to Thanksgiving, 2015; airdriefarmersmarket.com

Bearspaw Lions Farmers’ Market - Sundays, 10am to 2pm, June 7 to October 4, 2015; bearspawlions.com

Calgary Farmers’ Market - Open year-round. Check website for hours of operation; calgaryfarmersmarket.ca

Cochrane Farmers Market - Saturdays, 9am to 1pm, June 1 to September 28, 2015; Cochrane Ranche Historic Site, east of intersection of Highways 1A and 22.

Crossroads Market - Indoor/Outdoor Market, open year-round, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 9am to 5pm; Boutique Market, Saturdays and Sundays, 9am to 5pm; crossroadsmarket.ca

Grassroots Northland Farmers Market - Tuesdays, 3:30 to 7pm; June 2 to September 29, 2015; northlandmarket.ca

The Market on Macleod - Open year-round. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Check website for hours of operation; marketonmacleod.com

Millarville Farmers’ Market - June 13 to October 10, 9am to 2pm, 2015; millarvilleracetrack.com/millarville-events/farmers-market

Okotoks Farmers’ Market - Fridays, 3:30 to 6:30pm, June 21 to September 27, 2015; North side of Okotoks, 2 miles north of Okotoks on Highway 2A (west side facing Highway).

Outdoor Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmers’ Market - Wednesdays, 3 to 7pm, third week of May to early October, 2015; farmersmarket.hillhurstsunnyside.org/#!outdoor-vendors/c1y1f

Symons Valley Ranch Market - Open year-round. Fridays to Sundays, 10am to 5pm

Bev is a back yard gardener and writer who has worked for an organic food company. 

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