We got these tips from a long-time customer who wanted to help first-time market-goers make the most of their visit to the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market!
As a long-time customer, I think there isn't anything finer than spending a leisurely Saturday at the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market (OSFM). No big box store for this gal, give me the farm fresh, the organic, the hand baked, the handmade. And apparently, many others agree with me as I'm in good company week after week, navigating the busy aisles exploring the unique offerings that can only be found here.
Like anything new, I've learned over time how to make my Market shopping experience easier and thought I would share a few of my "home grown" tips with you. Maybe you have some too!!
- The Market has an information booth at the north end. The friendly staff can answer questions about "who's who", by directing you to certain types of vendors or products. Really helpful for new customers and even for those of us who go regularly as vendors rotate and change, especially on a seasonal basis. You can also find out about events happening in the community, apply to become a vendor, visit the lost and found etc.
- At the entry doors on 83rd Ave you'll find two big maps, with vendor listings underneath. This map will help to orient you, locate the washrooms, the ATMs etc. For a printed version of this map and personalized directions, visit the information booth.
- Look up, way up – the rows are numbered, these numbers correspond to the map!
- Generally speaking, the Market is quieter during the early and later part of the day, if that is important to you. Personally, I've shopped at all times and enjoyed my experience.
- Those fold up shopping carts are the best invention ever! Not a trip goes by that I end up with a few more items than planned; the market products are so tempting. I also take along reusable shopping bags, as the Market has a green philosophy. Not to worry if you forget, the information booth sells green market bags for just $2 - and you get to keep them as a souvenir!
- Many vendors offer free samples and I've discovered many new, palate pleasing options this way. It's a great opportunity to try something new.
- Vendors are happy to educate you about their products, like "which are the sweetest tomatoes" or "how hot is that pepper." They prefer this to self-directed sampling or over enthusiastic handling of produce or baking. Farmers' market produce is more fragile than grocery store produce which may be wax-coated or picked under-ripe for better shelf-life. Farmers at the market harvest their produce at its prime, so it may be soft and easily bruised.
- Drive those shopping carts and baby buggies with care in the crowds. If you load up a back pack, remember that like any "wide load, pivot with care!!
- If you are with a large group or lucky enough to run into friends as often happens at the Market, take care not to block access to a vendor's stall. There is a great upstairs seating area for resting and visiting.
- Please avoid placing your shopping bags on top of a vendor's display. I've seen jam knocked off tables and fruit rolling down the aisle. And please, don't sit on a vendor's table!
- If children are in your group, keep an eye on them. Teach them these tips.
- Vendors establish their prices based on many factors, including the high quality of their goods as well as the unique costs of the "grower direct to buyer" concept. While some specials may be advertised, it has not been my experience that bargaining at the market is commonplace.
Other Housekeeping Suggestions
- I love my dogs but I don't take them to the Market. Board of Health regulations do not permit dogs in the Market. I've seen some dogs tied up outside and generally speaking, they are either: too hot, too cold and/or too lonely. Leave them at home and bring them a treat!
- Some vendors offer electronic transaction options and others don't. Bring small bills (vendors appreciate this) and if you need money, the Market has 4 ATMs near the concession.
- A lost child at the Market is scary for everyone. Keep those kiddies close and have fun together.
- The information booth has a lost and found. Paging services (lost husband?) are also available.
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