Thursday, June 25, 2009

Community at the Market....

What a wonderfully busy, community day last Saturday was. It was Father's Day weekend with several events happening around Elgin including the Wings & Wheels Air Show, the Strawberry Socials at the CASO train station and in Sparta. And we had record numbers at the market! Rain did not deter the market crowd and we had vendors selling out of their product before 10am.

The launch of the Horton Breakfast Sandwich combo last weekend was a huge success! Peameal bacon from Farmgate Markets, farm fresh eggs from Frisa Farms, on an english muffin, with coffee from Coffee Culture (or juice or water if you prefer). A portion of proceeds from each sandwich goes directly back to the Horton Market. See the folks at Farmgate Markets for your Horton Breakfast sandwich and have breakfast at one of our indoor or outdoor cafes.

One of the things that help create a true, community oriented farmers' market is the vendors. Each week I will feature one or two of our vendors so you get an opportunity to meet them and hear their stories - which you may not be able to do during market hours.

Farmgate Markets Inc.

Sandy Lyle and Ray Coddington are the business partners behind Farmgate Markets. Sandy is a full-time farmer who previously had a retail store for frozen meats at his family farm on Fingal Line. They did well with the retail portion, running that from the farm from 1992 to 1997, at which point they started to outgrow their space. He and his farm partner decided to focus on the farming business and they closed the retail portion - or rather, put that business plan on the shelf. Fast forward to 2004 where Sandy and a hockey buddy started talking again about the retail meat business and Farmgate Markets Inc was born.

Now, they needed a really good butcher and placed an ad in the papers. As Sandy says: "Ray was our first hire and we got really lucky with him." Ray's credentials as a licensed Canadian Butcher are top notch. He graduated in the top 3 butchers in all Ontario, apprenticed for 6 years, and trained with 3 master butchers from Germany (hence the REALLY good sausage recipes he makes in-shop). His personal recipes are a testament of his training and his passion. Some recipes have come to him on first try, some have been perfected over years of trial and tribulation. At the time of Farmgate's inception, Ray was working in the wholesale meat industry but missed the customer interaction he had gotten from 15 prior years working in butcher shops and markets. He was living in St. Thomas, saw the ad, and answered the call - synchronicity at it's best!

Ray worked for Sandy and his business partner for about a year, at which time, the structure of Farmgate changed to offer Ray the opportunity to join Sandy as full partner in the business. These guys are passionate about fresh meat - drug free, hormone free, 100% corn fed, no phosphates, no bi-products, and all Ontario raised. They make all of their deli meats and sausage in-shop so you know (and can watch) how it's made. There is an increased demand for this type of production in the meat industry as people's allergies and food sensitivities are on the rise. Their product is ideal for a gluten-free diet.

They have truly built their business from scratch. And their passion and committment to their customers is evident. They have seen both their regular customers at the Horton Farmers Market and some new folks who had not yet heard of Farmgate Markets. (the majority of their advertising is word-of-mouth and it is still spreading fast!) You can also visit them at their shop at 310 Wellington St (south-west corner of Wellington and First Ave) for a full selection of meats, deli cuts, sausages and now carrying some local seasonal veggies to help round out that BBQ meal.
We are happy to have them with us every week as a full-season vendor in the newly renovated market building. Both Ray and Sandy have contributed many hours to the market not only with their on-site shop, but also with their expertise and business advice. Kudos of gratitude!

On a closing note......
As we swing into summer riding this heat wave - expect the market tables to be bursting with produce. Come celebrate Canada's Birthday with us on July 4th - strawberries, kids coralle, and sampling for everyone. Also, the St. Thomas Public Library will be at the market the first Saturday of each month with a selection of books related to the market and community. Bring your library card as you can check these books out on-site!

The connectedness and community spirit is alive and flourishing at the market - a cornerstone of our memories and what keeps us grounded during these turbulent times. These are the times when we take a step back and realize what we are grateful for. I am grateful to be a part of this community. Thank you, as always, for all of your feedback and suggestions. I am glad we connected.

See you at the Market!

Tricia Herbert
Market Manager
(p.s. A SPECIAL thank you to my aunt - Patti Kilmer - one of the resident photographers - MANY great pics to share with you over the next few posts)

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