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Brantford Farmers Market part of community fabric for over 175 years

Community ProfileBrantford Farmers Market part of community fabric for over 175 years

Since 1848, the Brantford Farmers Market has been a community hub, bringing together unique vendors and loyal customers while developing a reputation as one of the premier markets of its kind in Southern Ontario.

Originally established on Market Square (what is now Brantford’s downtown core), the Brantford Farmers Market was there for over 100 years until it moved to its present location at 79 IComm Drive in 1965.  

Bruce Jacobson, who has been the manager of the Farmers Market for the past 13 years, explained its early beginnings.

“It started in Market Square and City Hall was right in the middle of that block. It was an area that was a meeting spot [and] it was kind of on the path [and] when Brantford became a city, they built the first City Hall on that piece of property. The property was donated to the city for that purpose. And it was mandated that a farmers’ market be on the property as well. During the week, it was a parking lot [and] during the weekend it was the farmers market,” recalled Jacobson.

Many vendors have been at the Brantford Farmers Market for decades including Gord and Mary Swan of Swan’s Produce who celebrated 38 years of service. Photo courtesy Brantford Farmers Market.

The Brantford Farmers Market is one of the oldest markets of its type in Ontario, and continues to flourish and as Jacobson points out as being one of Brantford’s most important meeting places.

“Around 1976, I ran the farmers market for one year. And the market used to be jammed. We were open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning. If I came to work at three o’clock in the morning, which I did, there are already customers here. That’s how busy it was back then. And ever since then, right up until COVID, It’s been a real hub of community spirit,” explained Jacobson. “COVID hurt us a lot, but we’re finally coming back out of that now [and again becoming] Brantford’s largest weekly meeting place. That happens every week [where the] same people come; meeting their friends…having some coffee [and] breakfast. They wander around and shop together while they’re talking. We get a lot of that [and it] brings the community together.”

Price Hayzen has been with the Brantford Farmers Market for a while and when she founded Jamadian Patties it was as a foundational investment for their son who was diagnosed with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of two. Photo courtesy Brantford Farmers Market.

As well, the Farmers Market attracts thousands of people each week from across the city, the county, and other cities.

“We’re open Friday from nine until seven and Saturday from seven until two. We do 700 to 800 people on a Friday and on Saturday that same time would be 1,500 to 2,000 people. During the summer we jump right up. And the last few Saturdays we’ve been up close to 3,000 people,” said Jacobson. “We have many people that shop here regularly and we have those that come once a month from Toronto as well. They say that the market has everything they need….And we get a lot of Hamilton people shopping here too.”

However, the Farmers Market boasts an eclectic range of vendors, some of whom are from the area and other places like Simcoe, Delhi, and Woodstock.  

“We’ve got a really good selection of vendors. In our indoor market, we’ve got 29 different vendors that are all different in what they bring to the table. I have a couple of bakers [that] specialize in different varieties of pies, pastries, cakes, buns and bread. Everything is homemade,” said Jacobson.

Many of the vendors at the Brantford Farmers Market make key contributions to the community. Dan ‘the Mushroom Man’ McCutcheon (and Abigail Game from Brantford Boston Pizza) raised over $6,000 for the Stedman Community Hospice after their successful Turkey Point Polar Bear Plunge. Photo courtesy Brantford Farmers Market.

Along with the bakeries, the market boasts other specialized vendors who have been at the Farmer’s for a long time.

“We got the best cheese vendors around like Jensen Cheese [and] the selection of cheese we have at the market is one that you can’t find anywhere and in the county,” continued Jacobson. “Jenson Cheese has been at the Farmers Market since 1936 and Huzul’s Meat & Deli’s have been with us since 1920. And we have Dan, the Mushroom Man who has been here since 1970. He goes out and picks fresh mushrooms at four in the morning.”

For the last number of years, The Brantford Farmers Market, with the help of Economic Development and Tourism, has been active in providing new ways of bringing people to market which has included showcasing local musicians during the summer. Photo courtesy Brantford Farmers Market.

Also, the Farmers Market, with the help of Economic Development and Tourism, has developed initiatives like showcasing local musicians to attract visitors.

“When we came under the wing of Economic Development and Tourism, they got involved in running our social [as well as developing] programs to draw people in regularly. The Farmers Markets is owned by the City of Brantford, but during my time here, they haven’t put money into the market, so vendor’s rent covers the cost of the building and maintaining it [and since] we are now under tourism and economic development, they are finding grants for us too,” Jacobson continued. “They have also helped us with projects like getting musicians. We had some of them here last year, playing in our outdoor market on different occasions, and it went over well. It helps the market’s images [and helps promote the] musicians themselves. And this year, we’ve got ten of them scheduled for the summer.”

The Brantford Farmers Market has been a staple in the Brantford community for over 175 years and continues to attract customers from all over southern Ontario with its rich product selection and engaging atmosphere. Photo courtesy Brantford Farmers Market.

Despite being in the community for so long, Jacobson noted that many people are rediscovering the Farmers Market.   

“It’s amazing how many people don’t realize we’re open year-round…so, that’s the first thing a lot of local people don’t understand, even those that have lived here most of their lives. They’ll come in [because] somebody told them that we were open. They show up and they’ll stick their head in my door in my office and tell me they didn’t know we were open year-round. Others tell me they haven’t been here since they were kids and they didn’t even know that we still existed,” Jacobson said.

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