Farmers’ markets are now in full swing throughout British Columbia, bringing seasonal produce, cool crafts and tasty treats to the kind of locals and visitors who love nothing more than a spot of sun-dappled alfresco shopping.
Richmond is home to two summer farmers' markets, the Steveston Farmers & Artisans Market and the Kwantlen St. Farmers Market. Running on Tuesday afternoons, Kwantlen St. Farmers Market has moved a couple of times over the years. But it has now found the perfect venue in Minoru Plaza, just outside the city’s main library and cultural centre building in Richmond's city centre.
Run by the Kwantlen Student Association, Kwantlen Polytechnic University's flourishing Sustainable Agriculture Program has a stall at the market, selling produce farmed by its own students. But that’s not the only reason to come. On my opening day visit, I found a bulging shopping bag of additional enticements. And I may have also eaten a treat or two along the way…
Fresh strawberries at the Sustainable Agriculture Program stand. | Photo: John Lee
Still early in the season, there were several produce stalls to explore on my visit. But the student-run Sustainable Agriculture stand was the busiest. Crammed with lush greens, shiny pink radishes, sweet little strawberries and slender stalks of rhubarb, it was a hive of shopping-based activity.
“Everything’s grown by Kwantlen students, mostly on our 10-acre farm,” says Piper Kenney, one of the stall’s Sustainable Agriculture staffers. “There’ll be different things here every week as the season progresses, including celery, peppers, tomatoes and squash.”
But now’s the time to pick-up some rhubarb, she says. “Stew it in a pot with honey and sugar, add it to your muffins or make a rhubarb upside down cake—it’s delicious!”
Luscious fresh greens at the Sustainable Agriculture Program stand. | Photo: John Lee
Continuing my stroll and making a mental note to buy some eggs from the Rockweld Farm truck—a popular vendor at many Lower Mainland markets—I also browsed the artisan stalls. Several jewelry stands hooked my magpie instincts but I made a beeline for a large stand combining handmade soaps and BC-made honey products.
Jars of honey in clover, dandelion, and blueberry varieties looked tempting. But the craft soaps—arranged on natty wooden trays and available in varieties from Lavender Mint to Rose Geranium—were proving particularly popular. “We cover everything you need, from soaps to honey,” chuckles twinkle-eyed Lloyd, the vendor behind the stall’s eponymous Lloyd’s Real Soap products.
Honey from the Lloyd’s Real Soap stand. | Photo: Crystal Solberg
Like any good farmers’ market, there are also plenty of ways to indulge here, including food trucks. But after listening to a toe-tapping singer-guitarist (there will be live music at each market), I took my taste buds for a tour of the bakery stands. It’s hard not to be temped when everything from croissants to gooey-soft cookies are on the table. But I found myself drawn to the tiny Joels Bread stand.
“This is my first market,” says Joel Strecker who has German ancestry and whose wife encouraged him to start baking professionally. “My approach is basically German. I make three kinds of bread—dark rye, country bread, and sunflower whole wheat—but I’ve also baked pretzels and cinnamon rolls for this week’s market.”
All of his pretzels were snapped up within the market’s first hour—“I’ll need to make more for next time,” says Strecker. But he’s also hoping his dark rye takes off with visitors. “It’s my favourite and I have three other rye recipes I’d like to try as well. The best way to enjoy it is with some liverwurst and a bit of fresh tomato,” he advises.
Pretzels and cinnamon rolls at Joels Bread. | Photo: John Lee
The Kwantlen St. Farmers Market runs every Tuesday afternoon (noon to 4:00pm) until October 2. Located at Minoru Plaza, the nearest Canada Line station is Richmond-Brighouse. From there, cross the road, head through CF Richmond Centre mall (exit by Minoru Boulevard) and follow the signs to the Richmond Public Library. Alternatively, transit buses 410 and C94 stop nearby. Free parking is also available.