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North Gower Farmers' Market

The following is an excerpt of an article submitted to the Ottawa Carleton Review. Watch for it in the Review on June 11.

As the sun rises gently over the vegetable patch the greens are disputing with the tomatoes over what the season portends. We welcome you to this column on the North Gower Farmers' Market with a few words on how it came to be.

The North Gower Farmers' Market began as an idea in May, 1994. Carolyn Seabrook, well known for her energy and enthusiasm in community activities, mentioned to her husband, Andrew Harkness, that it would be a good idea for North Gower to have a market as a local event and as a country meeting place.

She had an ideal location: her family's vacant barn and farmyard on Roger Stevens Drive, just west of the village's main intersection.

And it was an idea whose time was right. Through the 90s, the farmers' market movement has been gaining momentum all across Ontario. Farmers' markets offer new opportunities for vendors of farm-fresh produce, crafts, and home baking. They attract the local regulars, who like the opportunity to shop for local produce and visit with their neighbours. And they give people from cities a place to sample rural atmosphere.

Seabrook is from a family that has a tradition of service in North Gower village life. She works as the Rural Outreach Coordinator for the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre. Harkness was raised in the Glebe in Ottawa. He is a transportation engineer with Morrison Hershfield, an Ottawa engineering firm.

Carolyn and Andrew's initial plan, discussed over the kitchen table, was to see if they could get 10 vendors to come out for a one-day market. They attracted 16, the day was a success, and people commented on how much they appreciated the chance to shop for local goods and produce.

With this behind them, it was back to the kitchen table: they added more days and special promotions, and extended the season to a final "Country Harvest Market Day" on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

That was three years ago. The North Gower Farmers' Market is now operated by a committee of volunteers, chaired by Harkness. The market is open each Saturday throughout the summer from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30, rain or shine. Opening day is Saturday, June 21.

Asked about the success of the market, Harkness said, "There is lot of involvement by volunteers and vendors to make it all come together. It's thanks to the energetic and enthusiastic work of the volunteers that the market has grown to where it is today."

The market has featured a number of attractions: antique cars, model airplanes, country and jazz music, square dancing, and a magician, as well as several special theme days, including strawberry festival, children's day, apple day, corn roast, community involvement day, and the country harvest market.

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