District vendors paving the way for other area farmers’ markets

FORT FRANCES—Given the Clover Valley Farmers’ Market has been in operation here for 22 years, Rainy River District producers seem to have the experience and expertise needed to assist in creating other markets in the region.
And there not only are positive results for those communities, but also this district.
CVFM manager Deb Cornell, who also owns the Rainy River Elk Company, has been participating in a weekly farmers’ market in Kenora this season, as well as a monthly one in Sioux Lookout.
The Kenora market started up last September while Sioux Lookout just began its endeavour this year.
“[It’s] gone very well,” Cornell enthused. “People there, just like Kenora, seem quite thrilled.
“They are really enjoying it . . . I’ve heard time and time again ‘We’re so glad that you’re doing this. This is really something the community needed,’” she added.
“So that’s rewarding for us to hear, but it’s also really nice that they seem pleased about it.”
Cornell noted residents in the more northern communities can view the products, see what Rainy River District has to offer, and try to incorporate some of these items into their markets.
“Certainly, there are little pockets of vegetable gardens around the region and although we have a longer growing season here than Sioux Lookout, they haven’t had a place where they could readily market their produce when the gardens are exploding, either,” she remarked.
“I think we’ll see more [producers] pop up around the region.”
Cornell noted baking and perhaps preserves are products people in Kenora or Sioux Lookout could easily market.
“That’s something they can do in their own community and might pick up,” she said.
Besides Cornell’s elk products which she sells, other local items often are displayed at the fledgling farmers’ markets, such as beef, eggs, honey, baking, preserves, soaps, vegetables, plants, perogies, and cabbage rolls.
“Here there are some pretty good skills in terms of direct marking, in terms of product display and merchandising, and those will be picked up by osmosis by others,” Cornell explained.
She added participating in the other markets also creates an awareness of just how many products are available in Rainy River District.
“In terms of the region, I think the Rainy River District is kind of the bread basket. And there’s a lot more rocks and trees to the north,” said Cornell, while adding the new farmers’ markets will go through a developmental stage.
“I already see from last year in Kenora [that] there are more Kenora people involved then last summer,” she noted. “There are more local people in the picture this year.
“So that’s kind of nice and I think that will happen in Sioux Lookout, too, and maybe even draw some from Dryden.”
Cornell also said the different venues of farmers’ markets are refreshing, especially with Sioux Lookout’s by the Via train station and Kenora’s by the lake.
“At one point during the morning, the Via train comes in and so we actually deal with the Via customers there, too,” she declared. “That’s a first for me, being at the train stop.
“And in Kenora, we’re right at the harbourfront under the big tent. So the venue is lovely and people are coming to the market right off the lake, with coolers and such,” she added.
Due to the larger population in Kenora, which grows even bigger in the summer months, Cornell figures she makes about three times the sales there compared to Fort Frances.
But along with the prosperous sales, she also draws ideas to expand the agriculture market of Rainy River District. After having a discussion with a woman in Kenora who is involved in an organic co-op, Cornell began thinking about organic foods in local terms.
“[These people] really are interested in natural foods and organic foods that are closer to them,” she noted. “There are products in this district that can fit that bill.
“And it comes down to being able to talk to the producer,” she said. “To talk about what’s in the food, what’s the source of the food, how they farm.
“They are all questions I end up answering regularly,” Cornell added. “And they don’t have that in their communities because there are not a lot of people producing and direct selling.”
In addition, Cornell said things are continuing to go well at the Clover Valley Farmers’ Market here this season.
“We’re getting an interesting mix of vendors,” she remarked. “And we’re getting some interesting visitors coming and going.”
Along with a new consignment booth featuring crafts, Cornell indicated there are plenty of local vegetables available.
“Vegetables are all earlier this year,” she enthused. “There are potatoes at market and that’s really early. We’ve had lots of nice little carrots at market and beets, and I think green and yellow beans from a greenhouse.
“There’s lots of produce early because the winter was nice, spring was early, and it’s been warm.”
This coming Saturday (July 22), the local market will hold a “Flower Festival” win conjunction with the Fort Frances Horticultural Society.
“It’s always a nice weekend to attend [the] market because there are lots of flowers about,” Cornell said.
(Fort Frances Times)