Downtown Bureau

Renovated Market Will Hold Fewer Stalls

With fewer stalls in a renovated Farmers' Market, the City will prioritize which vendors can still fit with a scoring system that encourages local farmers over wholesalers.

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 13, 2010

The City will have to make some tough decisions about which Farmers' Market stallholders can fit in the renovated Market when it re-opens.

According to a report presented to the Emergency and Community Services Committee meeting on Wednesday, September 8, 2010, the Market currently holds 172 stalls, but the renovated market will only hold 146 interior stalls. On Saturdays with weather permitting, the Market will be able to hold an additional 10-15 stalls outside with partial closure of York Blvd.

According to the report, which was prepared by the Farmers' Market Transition Sub-Committee, new building code requirements for separate vender washrooms and additional fire doors, as well as the need for a community kitchen, have consumed 2,600 square feet of stall space.

Floor Plan, Renovated Farmers' Market
Floor Plan, Renovated Farmers' Market (Click to view fullsize)

Based on the waiting list of 70 prospective vendors trying to get into the Market, we could have up to 240 stalls if there was enough room to accommodate them all.

The sub-committee considered a few options for prioritizing access to the smaller set of permanent stalls, but Councillor Robert Pasuta (Ward 14, Flamborough) proposed the following motion to prioritize local farmers:

That, given the desire to further the Hamilton Farmers' Market as a "farmers" market, the selection criteria for stallholders and stall location selection will first consider local farmers, growers and food producers.

The current stallholder leases will be up on December 31, 2010. Councillor Brian McHattie, a member of the committee, explains that existing stallholders will need to reapply for a space (along with prospective vendors applying for a new space), and the city will evaluate the applications "using a scoring system that encourages farmers and local food."

with files from Jason Leach

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

32 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By H+H (registered) - website | Posted September 13, 2010 at 13:53:26

From my perspective, this is great news. I've been around long enough to remember the market when it was in the lower level of the parking garage behind Eaton's and in the stalls on Market Street. I don't wish any harm to the current vendors, but I can get the same product from the Ontario Food Terminal at my grocery store. The majority of food sold at the market is from the OFT. Giving local farmers/growers a place to sell locally grown food is what I think most of us want to see. I applaud Councillor Pasuta for his motion. As a working farmer, he's much closer to this than almost all of the rest of us.

This is going to get really ugly as all of the existing stall holders start to fight over fewer spaces and against criteria that puts farmers first.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted September 13, 2010 at 14:29:37

This is a fabulous development - we stopped going to the Downtown Farmer's market altogether, because many (most?) of the stalls were selling fruit and veggies that were WAY out of season - clearly not farmers at all. The fact that one of the early versions of that Market's billboard featured a kid holding a bunch of bananas only served to reinforce that point.

We have moved to the Ottawa St. market (along with a share of Backyard Harvest's CSA), and although it requires us to drive there, we have built some great relationships with some great local growers - relationships we value more than the convenience of being able to walk to a downtown market.

To say nothing of the fact that supporting local growers is the right thing to do, these are relationships that could be usefull if a sudden spike in oil prices were to lead to some challenges in the supply chains of major grocery stores...if you catch my drift.

H+H is right, though - the OFT vendors will probably not 'go quietly into that good night..."

Interesting times ahead.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Andrea (registered) | Posted September 13, 2010 at 14:39:13

This is fabulous news!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By LoveIt (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2010 at 15:02:08

I, too, prefer quality over the quantity. Sometime have to travel far to get a better variety and qaulity products, but rather shop locally.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted September 13, 2010 at 15:08:47

This is going to get really ugly as all of the existing stall holders start to fight over fewer spaces and against criteria that puts farmers first.

LOL. I used that exact phrase "going to get real ugly" when I sent along my tidbits that contributed to this article. But like everyone else, I agree, this is good news.

Not to mention, I like the fact that there will be a demo kitchen and a food seating area now. I used to bemoan the lack of a sitting area where we could snag a coffee or lunch.

Plus, with such a lineup of stalls waiting to come in, I would hope that we'll have no problem running an outdoor market every Saturday from April-October.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JeffTessier (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2010 at 15:26:51

Finally.

That's a lot of stalls to fill, though. I hope that enough local farmers are able to commit the time and personnel to staffing a market stall. Otherwise this welcome change in the philosophy of the market will have little effect as the same old OFT vendors fill in the spaces. It isn't clear in the meeting's minutes if the 70-strong waiting list is filled with people who would be prioritised by the new proposed criteria.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By AnneMariePavlov (registered) | Posted September 13, 2010 at 15:50:48

I've been around long enough to remember the market in the lower level of the parking garage at Eaton's too. I remember the produce being mostly local and I would assume organic. An out of town co-worker recently asked me where to find organic produce downtown, and I of course directed him to the market. Imagine my surprise when he reported back to me that MOST of the produce there was not organic.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Robbie K (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2010 at 16:31:43

Why would you assume that the local produce was organic?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By cmc (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2010 at 16:37:08

This is a concern to me, I understand and support the preference for local producers but what about the stalls that sell Latin American and Caribbean products, or those that sell cheese or grains and flours. Without a car, I rely on the market for a lot of the food I buy. If anything, I find the market a bit narrow in what it has on offer although I believe it is an excellent market in its current incarnation. I recently moved from Toronto and lived close to St. Lawrence Market. I do prefer Hamilton's market but miss a few items I could find at St. Lawrence.
I certainly support the letter and the spirit of Councillor Pasuta's motion but I hope that diversity of products is not forgotten in whatever selection process stallowners have to go through. If the range of products available is diminished it could cost the market customers. I am sure that I am not the only customer whose visits to the market might be less frequent if I have to go elsewhere to find the supplies I need.
It seems unfortunate that fewer stalls can be accommodated. I wonder at what stage of the planning this problem was confronted. I like the criteria in the motion but I don't see the response as a cause for celebration.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2010 at 16:40:57

This is a good news bad news story.

Good news because I'm glad to see a focus on actual farmers as opposed to wholesalers.

Bad news because, if we truly have that many people who want a spot and even more on a waiting list, perhaps the company that runs Jackson Square should consider creating a "market district" in the old food court and surrounding area as a way of generating more revenue. This market district could be open even on "non-market days" providing the downtown with a more regularly available resource for fruits and veggies.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By TnT (registered) | Posted September 13, 2010 at 23:30:23

What about leasing out the current temporary market as it is to overflow. It is a really nice thing that is connected into the actual mall.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2010 at 00:46:52

Farmers or not, there's no excuse for shrinking the market. Claiming that they're doing this to "support farmers" is absolute hogwash. It would be like shutting down a floor of the Library because too many of the books aren't by local authors.

Yes, the market needs more farmers. But many small family farms wouldn't have the labourers to staff a booth if they were given one for free. Closing spaces permanently will only force more people back to supermarkets where there are NO options for local food. Why isn't anyone shutting them down?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By A Worried Customer (anonymous) | Posted September 14, 2010 at 02:37:36

Many of you people are missing the point! I have been shopping at the Hamilton Market for over 20 years, 4 days a week(even during snowstorms). The "Real" farmers who made the market what it is today, weren't forced or booted out, but rather opted out by choice and by their own admission. So why try to prioritize and urge new farmers at the new Hamilton Market at this point in time? Thus, pushing aside non farmer vendors!! The farmers kids didn't want to be farmers anymore, they wanted to work in the office, be firemen, dentist, policemen, etc. As evident in farms being sold to developers all around us, these kids don't want to be farmers.

So the next generation of market vendors came in. There are a few good ones and they are none farmers, but also sell many local products all year long. These people filled the retired farmers void, beautifully!! I have built a relationship along the years with many vendors (including farmers) at the Hamilton Market, one in particular I don't want to mention any names. But, I will say a fruit and vegetable vendor (he also sells mostly local produce during the seasons and throughout the year). And his mother has an ethnic (Latino and Oriental foods) store... Did I give them away? Probably all of you reading this have past or shopped at their stalls one time or another. They have become a Hamilton Market destination for my family, friends and extended family for over 20 years. And judging by the many customers, probably in the hundreds - we are all very happy they are at the market. Many of us will be lost if they were not there!!

They, along with other vendors have held the farmers market together during the downtown cores dark days. I personally, along with family go to the Market to buy fruit and veggies from him, and after at his Mother's for some Latino groceries. I agree that there are many vendors that shouldn't be at the market. But if you get rid of the good vendors and the superb service my non-farmer vendor provides my family, I will no longer shop at the market. You politicians and decision makers, who don't even shop at the market let alone understand how many countless hours these people put in to make a buck. You all should be ashamed of yourselves!! These same politician promote farmer friendly Market for "real" farmers, but on the other hand they keep on allowing farmers land to be sold off to developers. Pretty soon there will be no farmers to sell at the Hamilton Market!!

As a Hamilton Market customer, I've noticed even the "real" farmers are not selling 100 percent local products. To me that's ok because you can only consume so many potatoes, beats, carrots, apples, etc. If you know what I mean. I would rather shop at the Market instead of the chain stores. I don't have a problem with my local produce nor farmers. But if it ain't broke, don't fix it! These politicians woke up one day with a pretty little concept! "Let's turn the Hamilton Market into a farmer friendly market and give priority to 2 to 3 existing farmers at the market and invite new ones along the way, pushing aside existing vendors.

The only attraction for many years to the downtown core was the market and the vendors that kept it alive. The politicians don't see that, because the only time they come to the Market is during election time. I believe I have not seen not one of them there shopping. The city allowed these vendors to be there, to make livelihoods for themselves and their families...why should the city decide who stays and who doesn't! There is clearly something wrong, somebody missed something along the way,... These vendors deserve better. The city and whoever is in charge of the market should be held accountable. How can you make a new market and then after tell the vendors we cannot accommodate everybody.

What I had feared from the very beginning is now becoming very shockingly true. The new market is for the politicians and city to bask in and at the same time getting all the credit, not realizing that their dream and concept of a new market has been a nightmare and possibly livelihood ending reality for these many vendors.

I think my New Years resolution will be to stop shopping at the Hamilton Market and start at No Frills or Food Basics. Hey, they promote local farmers, too!

Yours truly,
Very disappointed at the new market decision makers

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Old Macdonald (anonymous) | Posted September 14, 2010 at 06:40:35

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2010 at 10:02:07

As a Hamilton Market customer, I've noticed even the "real" farmers are not selling 100 percent local products.

There isn't, never has been, and will never be a requirement that market stalls serve only fresh, local, in-season foods from local farmers. And there shouldn't be. Punishing the market for not living up to these ideals is downright moronic, since there isn't another institution which sells more of it until you get to Guelph.

The value of the market goes way beyond just local food. It's about providing vendors an opportunity to sell goods without the massive overhead that comes with owning/running a store. Some sell produce - some sell soap and candy. Both are valuable. Look at the Makers Market.

Quite frankly, the only successful vendors at the mall are the market folks. A much better choice would be to open up even more stalls in some of the many vacant areas.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By H Mag (anonymous) | Posted September 14, 2010 at 10:56:59

I like the idea that we could end up with two market areas in the downtown core. Not a bad thing if you think about it...

The current temporary market space could be utilized as a second market - perhaps open longer hours or more days. Where the new Farmers' Market space could be more specialized and local goods.

Demand is there and as someone said above - the market stall holders are probably some of the more successful tenants in Jackson Square. If I was Yale - I would be jumping at the chance to open a second market as soon as the new space is ready to go.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted September 14, 2010 at 12:05:44

I agree that Jackson Square, since they have an excess of space, should convert some of the mall into farmer's market type stalls. But I believe that locating it in the current temporary space would be a mistake because it would physically divide the two markets such that you would lose potential synergy.

People who work out by Bay St. would go to the market closest to them only, and people heading to the official farmer's market would be unlikely to wander through the other side of the mall to see what they have to offer. Despite the fact that the distance isn't all that far, many people won't walk. If the Jackson Square Market is set up in and around the old food court the market patrons will have no trouble crossing through the other side of the door to see what's on the other side, in fact, many of the elderly market patrons take this route anyways through the mall. A second market at the current "temporary market location" is unlikely to attract these elderly shoppers away from their route. The location should be all about synergy and sharing customers.

I'd be willing to bet if they negotiate to relocate the existing "old food court" tenants they could easily generate enough space to accomodate at least a dozen vendors on the main floor in that area, and many more if they wanted to do some more serious reconfiguring of the mall (or relocate Liason college, but I doubt that would happen.).

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By trevorlikesbikes (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2010 at 13:55:06

For one-stop produce shopping, I'd recommend F.W.P.(Fiddes) on Ewan Rd.

Comment edited by trevorlikesbikes on 2010-09-14 12:56:56

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2010 at 14:20:25

Agree with @robert D. Isn't the second floor of the "old food court" (formerly asian mart) currently disused, or did it get swallowed up by the offices up there?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By nobrainer (registered) | Posted September 14, 2010 at 14:23:31

"Agree with @robert D. Isn't the second floor of the "old food court" (formerly asian mart) currently disused, or did it get swallowed up by the offices up there?" Part of it is now the Cossart Exchange.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By H Mag (anonymous) | Posted September 14, 2010 at 15:39:22

How about that extra seating area near the new food court...I never see it always full.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Vonm (anonymous) | Posted September 14, 2010 at 17:14:14

I'm new to the area so I didn't know there were plans for a new market. I absolutely love the market right now, even though it's temporary. I love the variety of vendors, the chaos, the energy, the people. It's just fantastic. My first thought was that if there are 240 vendors that want to be there, why don't we find a way to make this happen? I fear that they may make a "sanitized" version of a market, like all the boring malls surrounding us (who have managed to make shopping boring). Jackson square has something so unique with this market.
I absolutely love the idea of having space for local farmers, but I also love having a variety of vendors selling all kinds of products. The variety reflects the beautiful diversity of our city.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted September 14, 2010 at 21:03:11

Pxtl said: "Isn't the second floor of the "old food court" (formerly asian mart) currently disused, or did it get swallowed up by the offices up there?"

I thought it was Liason College now, that's what my comment about moving Liason College was about. H Mag is right though, apparently it's also partly the Cossart Exchange. I wonder what else is up there...

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Jason (registered) | Posted September 14, 2010 at 22:03:48

Nevermind the second floor, the first floor is wasted space. I think there is a salad bar and a pho place and that's it. There's ample room to open it up and create an overflow market area.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 14, 2010 at 22:21:18

They're rebuilding the market as we speak. The issue is far from resolved.

Why not just build more stalls in the fancy new market?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted September 15, 2010 at 09:12:30

just to clarify a few things here.

  1. the city isn't trying to push out the unique vendors many of us have grown to love. They are simply looking to eliminate some of the duplicate sellers who are merely selling ontario food terminal stuff. apparently there are 2 and 3 stalls all selling the identical stuff, owned by the same person.

  2. Giving first dibs to farmers won't mean that nobody else will be allowed in. It simply means that first dibs will be given to farmers. I think there's only a handful of farmers now and I can't see 70 farmers choosing to locate there. Our specialty shops and other shops will be back, you can be assured.

  3. My sources tell me that most of the stalls in fact can be fit in the new market with some proper layout and design. Expect the number of available stalls to increase as they work on the reconstruction.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ??? (anonymous) | Posted September 15, 2010 at 21:11:56

Jason, before you lash out at the vendors that have 2-3 stalls carrying Ontario Food Terminal "Stuff", know what you are talking about!! You make OFT sound so negative!! First of all, the OFT consists of Importers and Ontario Farmers. The main "Houses", which are the importers, has a healthy relationship with the Ontario farmers, they co-exist in harmony. There is a large Farmers section at the OFT and the "main" houses carry a large variety of local products all year long. When the farmer decides to close up for the winter, be thankful we have the Ontario Food Terminal.
Now, about those vendors at the Hamilton Market that have multiple stalls, carrying the same products and are owned by the same person. The space they are occupying have been abandoned or sold off by FARMERS!! Nobody wanted those spots. Would you shop at an empty market?
Not only Fruit & Vegetable vendors occupy multiple stalls, but Bread, Deli & Cheese, Flower, Chicken and Meat vendors are also doing those capitalistic things. So please don't lash out at the vendors that buy at the OFT, even 99.9% of the farmers at the Hamilton Market shop there,because of the OFT we are never in short supply of fruit & veggies all year long, as experienced in many parts of Canada. Another reason why you should be thankful of the OFT is that the price of fruit & vegetables in Southern Ontario is probably the least expensive than in any other part of Canada or US( bananas in Quebec is 79lb. Buffalo 79lb. US!!)
How about going back 20-25 years ago, where every other stall was a farmer selling similar produce, nobody complained back then!!!Be thankful these few vendors are taking vacant space and running it at their own expense, giving the customer many choices. You don't think farmers in the area don't know about the Hamilton Market and the equal opportunity they have to fill those vacant stalls?? Don't kid yourself...sure they know!! They just don't want to!!
Don't put the blame on these vendors, but rather the Market and the City for allowing multiple stalls, WHY?? Because renting out these vacant stalls generated revenue for the city!!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted September 15, 2010 at 22:25:00

umm, I'm not entirely sure how to reply so I'll repost my first two points from above:

just to clarify a few things here.

the city isn't trying to push out the unique vendors many of us have grown to love. They are simply looking to eliminate some of the duplicate sellers who are merely selling ontario food terminal stuff. apparently there are 2 and 3 stalls all selling the identical stuff, owned by the same person.

Giving first dibs to farmers won't mean that nobody else will be allowed in. It simply means that first dibs will be given to farmers. I think there's only a handful of farmers now and I can't see 70 farmers choosing to locate there. Our specialty shops and other shops will be back, you can be assured.

I'm not lashing out at anyone here. Just stating a few facts about what is happening right now. And as I mention in point 2, there will be room for plenty of sellers and 'non-farmers' due to the fact that only a handful of farmers seem to want to locate there.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By sudsy (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 07:18:33

"Because renting out these vacant stalls generated revenue for the city!! "

Actually we the taxpayers have been subsidizing these "Hucksters" at the Market - especially when some of them only pay $200 or so a month for some prime space. Try getting that elsewhere downtown...

Farmers, producers and purveyors of local I can understand wanting to protect and support - not someone running a glorified variety store.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ??? (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 12:31:24

Huckster...That's a little bit crude in this day and age, once upon a time we used to call people that. Are they not taxpayers too? When was the last time anybody has gone to a real
farm market? They too carry imported produce, to compliment their harvest!! Are these farmers "Huksters" too? Perhaps, there should be a rule regarding the percentage of local produce one must sell at their stall!! Sudsy, are you insinuating that these "hucksters". don't support the local farmers? I think you are wrong!! Ask any local farmer, how many of these "Huckster" are keeping them alive......really!
Doesn't anybody get it! Although the concept is nice of having a "real" farmers market, but you also need a balance of produce vendors with imported produce!!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By nobrainer (registered) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 12:52:36

"Doesn't anybody get it!" I think everybody gets it, that's why the city's scoring system is designed to get a mix of different vendors.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 16:07:37

I hardly see how selling vegetables makes one "a glorified variety store". Especially in an area where so few variety stores have a single vegetable. The OFT gets most produce from any sizable operation in Ontario, because agriculture is so tightly controlled in this country, and most have no choice. I'd RATHER have people selling produce straight from local organic farms, but it isn't like they're selling any worse a quality of food than the freshest veggies at The Barn.

Go talk to some market vendors, whichever ones you respect, about the city's plans. Most of 'em feel pretty left-out and screwed. I heard quite an earful last Saturday. Did ya know they're raising the rents, too?

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds