The Saskatoon Farmers Market has come a long way
since its humble roots in 1975 as a small cooperative created to
help bring farmers and their produce to city folk.
Today, the Farmers Market is a Saskatoon institution
- not only a great place to buy everything from produce to plants
to crafts to baking to ethnic food, but a gathering place for locals
and tourists alike.
The first trial market was held in the spring of
1974 with less than 10 vendors in the Co-op Parkade, which has since
burnt down. From that point on, those involved lobbied the city
to find a decent market location. "Despite the inclement weather
the first time, people never gave up . . . The producers were enthusiastic."
In 1975, the provincial government, through the
Department of Agriculture,
began offering a $1,000 grant to help communities start farmers'
markets. The Saskatoon group who had already done the groundwork
for the market took advantage of this program to hire a coordinator
and to really get things going. Thus was the beginning of the Saskatoon
Farmers Market, called in its early years the Toad Lane Market.
The "Make it, Bake it, Grow it" motto was instituted which
is still adhered to today. The city provided a location to hold
markets in the City Hall
A winter market was initiated in 1977 in the Sinclair
Centre, although it was more of a flea market than a farmers' market.
The winter markets posed a dilemma in finding a new location for
the market yearly until it moved to the Sturdy Stone Centre in 1987.
The first summer satellite location, a Thursday
market, was started in the Westgate Plaza parking lot beginning
at the end of June 1978. It was moved to the Confederation Park
Mall area in 1979 where it continued until 1999. In May 2000, the
market changed its Thursday location to the north end of the city
on 51st Street.
On August 18, 1980, the market set up on 23rd Street,
in front of City Hall to "Celebrate Saskatchewan". It
was a trial market in that location as City Hall would soon be expanding
its own facilities and the market would no longer have use of the
parking lot. The following summer, the city agreed to close 23rd
Street between Third and Fourth Avenues, so members could hold the
market. They expanded the Saturday's summer market and started to
use the City Hall Square area in the summer of 1993 to accommodate
the overflow of members.
Due to a poor growing season in 1981, the market
was ready to put an end to the markets and relied on the summer
market of '82 to get them though. The members persevered by holding
markets on Saturdays and Thursdays and added another summer satellite
location on Tuesdays at the Wildwood Mall. The added income of another
location helped to get the market back on track financially. The
Tuesday market continued at the Wildwood Mall until 1990 when it
moved to the College Park Mall where it continued until 1999. The
Tuesday market moved across the street, due to the expansion of
the College Park Mall, to the Elim Church parking lot on 8th Street
in 2000. In 2002 the market changed locations, moving to the Lakewood
An indoor Thursday market was introduced in the
Sturdy Stone Centre in 1990 which continued until spring 2002.
Satellite markets saw a number of changes in hours
and locations and while the summer Saturday market only moved once
from behind City Hall to 23rd Street, the winter Saturday market
moved yearly until it found a temporary home in the Sturdy Stone
Center until the spring of 2003. Due to renovations at the Sturdy
Stone building by the government, the market was forced to find
a new winter location. The City of Saskatoon came forward and allowed
the co-use of the City's Electrical Building at 401 Ave A So. (corner
of Ave A & 19th Street) for a temporary permanent winter home
in the fall of 2003.
In December 2004 , the City of Saskatoon, Province
of Saskatchewan and the Government of Canada came to together to
redevelop the A.L. Cole site in Saskatoon's River Landing. Part
of the development included a permanent home for the Farmers' Market,
something that had been worked towards for many years. Market opened
at the new facility May 5, 2007. All markets operate in one location
With the many adjustments made by customers and
vendors alike, the essence of the market has remained the same.
Says market-goer Heather Norquay: “The best part of the market
is the activity of attending the market, walking through, seeing
people. It’s an event!"
Audrey Simpkins, who has been a market member since 1975, says the
producers are important to the success of the Market, but the loyal
market-goers can take credit, too. “It’s not just the
vendors who make the market. It’s the customers who show up
in 30 degrees below weather or when it’s raining. They make
it viable,” says Simpkins.