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Meet Me at the Market - Farmers Markets in Calgary

04/02/2013 07:28 EDT | Updated 06/02/2013 05:12 EDT

Have you ever been to a Farmers' Market? I must admit that even as someone heavily involved in the agriculture industry, I was incredibly intimidated by the entire concept. Perhaps this is why an otherwise mundane shopping trip was made so memorable several years ago.

It was my third year of university. The crisp spring air was a welcome change to the aroma of stale books, greasy food and chemistry lab experiments gone wrong. I breathed it in, was persuaded to hasten my gait and embraced the anticipation of what I would find. I remember the last block clearly. I could see the energy of the market on each guest's face, and as I joined the masses, I could feel the warmth on my own. I have never felt so welcome in a group of strangers, nor have I ever had a better time shopping for food!

Since that first trip, I have had the pleasure of exploring numerous Farmers' Markets, including some in Edmonton and Halifax. But, I've never had the opportunity--or perhaps, made the opportunity--to explore a Farmers' Market in the City of Calgary. So, I invite you to join me as I journey to discover why consumers are flocking to Farmers' Markets, how you can make the most of a trip to the Farmers' Market and where to find one.

To start my exploration, I spoke with Amanda Bonner, Director of Marketing and Events for Calgary Farmers' Market. I wanted to truly understand why Farmers' Markets are gaining popularity.

"Calgarians want to connect with their food," Bonner said. "They want to connect directly with farmers and producers. There's a real sense of community."

And in addition to the welcoming atmosphere, consumers, including a certain Dan Clapson, chef and founder of Start from Scratch, are also enthusiastic about the quality and diversity of fresh, local produce. In fact, the Calgary Farmers' Market alone sees more than 17,000 people every week!

For those of you wanting to explore a Farmers Market for the first time, Bonner and Clapson shared a few tips:

1. Come with a goal in mind, like: "I want to make a local meal today."

2. Have a basic recipe list.

3. Be open to seeing and trying things you might not have tried somewhere else.

4. Commit a fair amount of time to the experience.

5. Feel free to explore.

6. Above all, don't be afraid to ask questions.

Speaking of questions... That leaves you with one question, right? "Where and when?" In my opinion, the most coherent and comprehensive online lists of Farmers' Markets in Calgary are from the avenue and Found Locally, respectively. Good news, Calgarians: you have a lot to explore!

So... meet me at the market?

Did you know...

An "Approved Farmers' Market" under The Alberta Farmers' Market Association is required to have at least 80% of the vendors selling LOCAL products, i.e. those made, baked or grown in Alberta.

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