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Keeping it Local: Spotlight on Calgary Farmers' Markets

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Posted by : Dan Clapson, Sat, Oct 01 2011

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Autumn is the time of year that I really fall in love with my local farmers' markets! Here in Calgary, we have been really lucky, receiving some amazingly warm and sunny weather this October (think 20 degrees and sunny). I think it could be Mother Nature's way of making up for our August (which was the worst weather in a summer month I can remember). Regardless of the reason, there is nothing better to do on a weekend afternoon than head down to a farmers' market to stock up on local ingredients!

At this time of year, the markets are boasting piles of pumpkins, mountains of potatoes, and squash as far as the eye can see. It's a beautiful thing! Farmers' harvests are in full bounty, and just by walking around, looking at all the gorgeous produce, how could you not be inspired to make a home-cooked meal? Calgary has around 10 markets in total, including the nearby out-of-town markets. Here are the 3 that I find myself drawn to the most...

Hillhurst-Sunnyside Farmers' Market

To me, the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Farmers' Market  is kind of like the 'little engine that could'. It doesn't come close in size to either of the other markets below, but what this market lacks in quantity, it makes up for with quality. Quality example: Route 40 Soup Company  specializes in (you guessed it) soups. Driven by an emphasis on local ingredients, the entire menu is also gluten-, dairy-, and preservative-free. With delicious options like Organic French Lentil & Lemon or Seared Carrot w/ Ginger & Chili, how can you go wrong?

The real gem of this market is Jenn Chic Cooks. She is a passionate and talented cook who loves to have fun with her food. A woman after my own heart! Her main staple is the (extremely tasty) organic Little Chocolate Chippers, but in addition, she offers culinary options like complete picnic basket meals, ginger-snap animal cookies, gluten-free salads, sandwiches, you name it... her options change weekly (although the Chippers are a steadfast) so make sure you find out what she has coming up by checking out her website!

The market closed in mid-October, but it will be back

Crossroads Market

This is a market where produce is king. Almost all of the fruits and vegetables that you will find at the Crossroads Market are from neighbouring Albertan farms or from British Columbia. On warmer days you can visit vendors inside and outside this market, but come winter time, you've only got the inside option. Not to worry, there's still lots to choose from. Walking up and down the aisles of Crossroads you will see piles of sweet corn, beets, coronation grapes (anyone a home-made wine enthusiast?), bell peppers, the list goes on... and I'm already getting hungry! Needless to say, this is where I pick up the bulk of my fruits and veggies when I'm shopping on the weekends.

In particular, I find TJ's Fresh Produce Market has an awesome array of farmers' bounty. On this particular visit I purchased some locally grown red onions. There's just something about cooking with red onions grown in my vicinity that makes me smile. Ok, I've officially earned my 'food nerd' badge now.

Calgary Farmers' Market

Don't like a cool autumn breeze? Don't worry, this market is almost completely indoors, aside from a kettle corn truck outside (might as well grab a bag to munch on while walking around). Arguably the most 'mainstream' of all of the city's markets, the Calgary Farmers' Market   has a lot to browse through. If I may borrow a line from Frank Sinatra: 'If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere'. Many of the businesses that started out as booths in this market now boast successful storefronts: The Silk Road Spice Merchant  (with so many spice offerings you'll never want to leave), Maggie's Shortbread  (butter + cookies = my heart), Buttercream Bake Shoppe  (once again... butter + cupcakes = my heart), and Phil & Sebastian's  (some of the best coffee in the city) are just a few that come to mind. This market is often a springboard to success in Calgary's culinary sector.

One of my favourite stops, without a doubt, is Sunworks Farm. I love the fact that they take a holistic and organic approach to farming. All of their offerings--which include eggs, sausages, and whole chickens--in addition to being organic, are produced ethically, and, perhaps, most importantly humanely. And if I'm shopping for some produce at this market, I tend to stop by The Cherry Pit for their wide selection of fruits and vegetables (funnily enough, not just cherries, as their name would insinuate).

Going Nuts? I am, but that's a unrelated topic. This nut-centric business has as many seasoned nuts as there are days of the year. OK, maybe just half a year or so, but still, that's a lot of flavours to try! I recognize the fact that a person does not go to a farmers' market with purchasing nuts in mind, but they are all about the sampling, so chances are, if you stop by their booth, I guarantee you'll be leaving with a bag of something!

Feeling inspired to go out and find some local ingredients? I hope so!

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Posted: Sat, Oct 01 2011 by Dan Clapson
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