On Tuesday night, Dec. 6, 2022, Kingston City Council voted in favour of significant changes to the Kingston Public Market in Springer Market Square. For the last several years, City staff have observed a drop in vendors at the Market, which operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, April through November. This past May, councillors directed staff to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to search for a new operator for the Market, one that could “attract and retain local farmers” and other food vendors.
During the RFP process, Kingston’s Loving Spoonful put forward the only proposal, which scored a 90.2 in accordance with the City’s evaluation criteria. A report presented to councillors in advance of Tuesday’s meeting recommended the City enter into a three-year purchase of service and license agreement with the organization. The report also called on Council to repeal the Kingston Public Market’s current bylaw in order to allow the City to provide a new model for the Market’s delivery.
“Under the new model, Loving Spoonful, a not-for-profit charity with a history of successful partnerships with the City, will operate, manage and market the Public Market, and will implement changes to attract more local farmers as vendors. Loving Spoonful will transition the Public Market to achieve a Farmers’ Markets Ontario designation over the next nine to 12 months,” noted the report.
By achieving a designation as an official Farmers’ Market, the Market should attract more local vendors who will be able to offer products and services that are not allowed under the current Public Market model. “The designation will also exempt the Public Market from certain local Heath Unit measures and inspections, making it easier to offer special events related to food and beverage offerings, and regular food programming such as sampling.”
According to the report, Loving Spoonful will be able to provide a new marketing initiative, through partnerships with St. Lawrence College and the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, for the market. The organization will also work with partners at the Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Association, Tourism Kingston, and the Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market.
During Tuesday’s meeting, councillors had the opportunity to hear directly from Loving Spoonful’s Ayla Fenton on why the organization wanted to take control of Kingston’s Public Market.
“We have a large stake in supporting our local farmers,” Fenton said. “We’ve been working with the vendors at the Kingston Public Market and the Memorial Centre Farmers Market [while] considering this… We see this as not just something that’s going to benefit Loving Spoonful, but really a way for us to advance our charitable mission and [support] the local food system.”
Councillors also heard from Tim Pater of Black Dog Hospitality, who remarked on the current state of the Market and the potential benefits the proposed changes could bring. “Kingston residents have noticed a dramatic decline in vendors at the Market over the past few years… There’s been talk of change for well over a decade in that Market, [which] has not happened. This new bylaw proposition for Loving Spoonful to take over the operations of the Market is great news, especially with the mandate that it become a Farmers’ Market [rather than] a Public Market.”
Pater also noted that under the current Public Market model, he is unable to offer samples of the food he cooks during his chef cooking demonstrations at the market. Instead, samples have to be prepared in a certified kitchen and brought in so that market-goers can try out the meals Pater is demonstrating. A Farmers’ Market designation would make it easier for chefs and other food providers to hand out samples of their cooking.
Council passed the recommended changes by a unanimous vote. Under the new model, Loving Spoonful will now take on full control of the Market, while remaining accountable to the City.