Wednesday, June 19, 2024

From the Farmers’ Market to Our Heritage, We Have Much to Celebrate

Farmers’ market season begins in Meaford tomorrow, Friday, June 7, and perhaps it’s fitting that close on the heels of the opening of the farmers’ market season, this municipality will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the former Town of Meaford, as this community has been an agricultural centre at its core since its inception.

It is also fitting that the farmers’ market is returning during Local Food Week in Ontario.

The agriculture and food industry in Ontario is significant. According to a recent press release issued by the province, it is a $48.8 billion industry that provides some 836,000 jobs for Ontarians, from farming to food processing to retailing.

As our world has become more and more connected, particularly on the economic front, there has been a push in the past couple of decades to ‘buy local’, particularly when it comes to food. Our local farmers’ market is often as local as it can get.

While farmers’ markets in larger urban centres are typically served by farmers and food producers from neighbouring rural farming areas, when we attend our market here in Meaford, many of the vendors are our neighbours and friends, and who better to trust with producing the food that lands on your dinner table than friends and neighbours?

There is also something comforting about talking to the person that planted and harvested the tomatoes you purchased, or to know the name of the farmer that raised the lamb that you can’t wait to serve to weekend guests. The more we know about the our food-producing neighbours, the more we can appreciate what it takes to get our food from the field to the table. And the more local food producers know their customers, the better they are able to serve them.

As far as community initiatives go, Meaford’s farmers’ market is a genuine success story. It’s no simple task to get a farmers’ market off the ground, but what started as a quaint little market has blossomed into a festive, bustling Friday afternoon event at Meaford’s beautiful harbour throughout the summer months.

Our farmers’ market is an excellent showcase of our rich agricultural heritage, and heritage is something we have been hearing much about this year, with the sesquicentennial for the former Town of Meaford taking centre stage in this community. The big celebration will be here just a week after the farmers’ market opens for the season.

While the population of the newly formed Town of Meaford might have been 1,700 in 1874, today more than 4,500 residents inhabit what was once the Town of Meaford. It is now one-third of an amalgamated municipality known officially today as the Municipality of Meaford, with a population of more than 11,000.

Initially, the amalgamated municipality had opted to use a new name, the Town of Georgian Highlands, however that moniker was short-lived as it caused some confusion with the existing municipalities of Georgian Bluffs and Grey Highlands. So the name of this newly formed municipality was quickly changed to the Municipality of Meaford.

As with many municipalities that were amalgamated at the time, there was some friction in the early years, and despite our elected councils working to bridge the gaps among the three former townships, there can still be some friction found today. But for most of us, the Municipality of Meaford is a place we love, a place we call home, and it’s a place that wouldn’t be what it is today without all three having come together.

When I moved to this municipality nearly 20 years ago, I knew nothing of its history. I was completely unaware of the friction surrounding the 2001 amalgamation. I just felt that it was a quiet, safe, small town with a beautiful waterfront, and a wealth of natural beauty that I wanted to call home. In the years since moving here, I have learned much about its history and the people that have made this community great, but I know that there is so much more to learn and appreciate.

Much has happened around the globe in the 150 years since the former Town of Meaford was born, including two world wars, world-changing inventions such as the automobile, landing humans on the moon, to name just a few from a pool of millions of milestones and events.

Where this community once had a thriving manufacturing sector, those industries slowly disappeared as the development of highways allowed for quick delivery from modern industrial cities concentrated in southern Ontario. This community, like many others, had to adapt to the changing times, and these days, Meaford the municipality relies on tourism to help bring the all important dollars to our local businesses.

Naturally, this municipality has some flaws, as does every community, but you would be hard pressed to find a safer, more beautiful place to call home. Whether we realize it or not, our quiet lives in this quiet small Canadian municipality are the envy of much of the rest of the world, and we are fortunate indeed.

Thanks should be extended to Councillor Harley Greenfield, who got the ball rolling for this year’s sesquicentennial celebrations with a simple motion brought before council more than a year ago. Greenfield’s passion for the history of this community is something that he frequently shares with his fellow council members and the community, and his appreciation for the importance of both preserving and sharing that history is welcomed and appreciated by many of us, whether we have lived here our entire lives or if we are new to the community.

And one of the things I love most about my adopted community is the farmers’ market. I have met so many fabulous people at our farmers’ market, from local farmers themselves, to the many folks that use our local food as ingredients in their products which they lug to local farmers’ markets to sell.

So we have much to celebrate in the coming days. Farmers’ markets are certainly worth celebrating, as is our heritage, and though we are a young community in a young nation when compared to many others, we have a rich heritage to explore and celebrate.

Beginning tomorrow at 3 p.m. at the Rotary Harbour Pavilion, our favourite market vendors return, and there will be plenty of new vendors to discover. Consider becoming part of the weekly party that is the Meaford Farmers’ Market.

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