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Cold Lake Farmers' Market celebrates its 40th season

If you can make it, bake it or grow it, for 40 summers the Cold Lake Farmers' Market has been helping to sell it.
Biz Kid Jaxx Gale (right) and Gracie Cook (left) sell Gale’s handmade fishing supplies during the weekly Farmers’ Market in Cold Lake.
Biz Kid Jaxx Gale (right) and Gracie Cook (left) sell Gale’s handmade fishing supplies during the weekly Farmers’ Market in Cold Lake.

If you can make it, bake it or grow it, for 40 summers the Cold Lake Farmers' Market has been helping to sell it.

“In 1974, the agricultural society had a person come from the agricultural board in Edmonton and tell them it would be smart for (Cold Lake) to hold a farmers' market,” recalled Tina Birn, Cold Lake Ag. Society manager.

“Right then and there, they started doing farmers' markets in the summer (and) we've been doing it ever since.”

This summer marks a milestone for the local market. While it's always provided an opportunity for local artisans and growers to sell their goods, originally the farmers' market was a way for the non-profit society to recoup some money.

They needed the money to pay pack an operating grant the Cold Lake Ag. Society used to build the city's very first arena. It's since been torn down, but Birn said it used to stand right next to Assumption Jr./Sr. School where the new hotel is new under construction.

Since that time, the Cold Lake Farmers' Market has grown into an annual summer event, never missing a year. Keeping to its roots, the market offers customers a variety of homegrown, home-baked and handmade goods.

“It takes people back in time, because you're getting everything homemade,” said farmers' market manager Joyce Verrier. “It also gives vendors the opportunity to expose their talents, be it a cook, cabinet maker or jewelry maker.”

This year, the farmers' market is featuring an abundance of baked goods including cookies, cakes, bread, Ukrainian food and Greek food. Vendors will also be offering up their homegrown vegetables, honey and eggs, as well as an assortment of canned goods.

For those not looking for edibles to buy, the farmers' market also houses vendors with handmade goods. People with other types of home-based businesses also set up shop during the weekly market, such as Avon.

The real winner at the market is always the fresh veggies.

“It's quite popular. Once the vegetables start coming people just go nuts for homegrown vegetables,” said Verrier.

Birn added, “It's important because you're getting organically grown food. It's grown with love and care and brought in here. People want fresh, proper produce; they want tasteful produce.”

In 40 years, the market has had its ups and downs in terms of popularity but has remained a constant for shoppers in the Lakeland. Verrier said the number of vendors ranges from just 12 on a slow day, to upwards of 20 vendors.

Not only is it a great opportunity to buy and sell local goods, both women agreed the atmosphere in the market is unmatched.

“I go on the basis that it's a family-oriented group of people. Our vendors and our customers are just one huge family,” said Verrier. “It's fun to go and interact with these people, we have a lot of fun with them.”

The market runs every Thursday until Sept. 24 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Exhibition Park. For a non-profit group, Birn said it also draws more attention to the Ag. Society.

“In the summer months it's walls and walls of people. It's great because we get great exposure for the Ag. Society, they come to the home of the volunteers.”

With society starting to focus back on making health-conscious decisions, there looks to be a bright future for the local farmers' markets.

“It's a really nice mix of people. There are some 20 year olds in there and some 80 year olds. I see the younger generation is looking for better food, better tasting food,” expressed Birn, who added that's promising news for the Cold Lake Farmers' Market.

If the past 40 years are any indication, the Cold Lake Farmers' Market will remain a staple in the local community.

Tables at the farmers' market are just $10. To get children more involved with the farmers' market and help them start out their own small business, tables for kids are $5.

For more information on the Cold Lake Farmers' Market, or to book a table, contact Joyce Verrier at fm@coldlakeag.com.