West end farmer’s market continues growth

West End Market manager Ruthie Cummings (right) with a market customer. Supplied photo.

West Market Kingston, the city’s newest farmer’s market, is in the middle of its second year at the corner of Front Road and Days Road, and market manager Ruthie Cummings is beaming with excitement about the many new vendors that are joining the Saturday market.

“We’re growing in size, we have new vendors every week,” said Cummings. “We’ve had four new vendors this month, bringing us to 10 every weekend. Organic meat, organic vegetables, honey, coffee, gluten-free desserts, wild mushrooms. We have a new group from Queen’s University joining us who are doing algae-infused ramen, which is really exciting. You can get hot meals here along with your groceries.”

In April of this year, Cummings wasn’t certain if the market was going to be able to go ahead for 2019. The City of Kingston informed her that neither her previous space in the parking lot of the Royal Kingston Curling Club nor the desired location on the lawn of Centre 70 was zoned for a market. But after a plea in the media and concerns from neighbours, all was resolved in time for the first market day of the year.

“(Lakeside Councillor) Wayne Hill was very instrumental in making it happen,” said Cummings. “We did our publicity on a Thursday, and by Friday night he called me saying it was resolved. I really felt there was a community need for us to be in that location.”

Cummings started West Market Kingston in order to bring something to the neighbourhood that she thought was missing. 

“I grew up in this neighbourhood, and really felt we were now lacking certain amenities in walking or easy cycling distance,” said Cummings. “I’ve worked at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto and wanted to bring some of that to the west end. A better sense of community. We have free parking, an ATM, we’re on a great bus route but it’s easy to walk or bike or bring your dog.”

With one full year, and the zoning hurdle, in the rearview mirror, Cummings is looking forward to the rest of this year and beyond.

“The first year was very successful,” said Cummings. “There were more challenges. You have to attract all the vendors and convince them that there is longevity in what we’re doing.  

I’m also a vendor at the Memorial Centre Farmers Market and they’ve been very supportive. We have a newly organized Limestone City Market Manager’s group. We’re working with the National Farmers Union for marketing, and we received a grant to hire a social media manager.”

Over the next several years, Cummings is expecting West Market Kingston to grow to where the Memorial Centre Farmers Market is now. 

“That market started the same as us,” said Cummings. “They started at about the same size we are now and were totally community-driven. We’re looking to create that same atmosphere. We keep everything local. Everything we sell is produced by the vendors.”

Cummings has been working with Loving Spoonful to ensure that surplus food is re-distributed to those in need, and is exploring partnerships with the Lakeshore Community Garden just to the east of Centre 70, and the prison farm at Collins Bay Penitentiary. And as summer rolls on and new vendors join West Market Kingston, Cummings is excited to welcome people from the neighbourhood and beyond to the market. 

“Every time somebody comes, they’re helping towards our goal of becoming a thriving market, one that is part of people’s Saturday routine,” says Cumming. “This side of Kingston can feel a bit ignored when it comes to community events and culture. We’re really trying to bring some of that here.”

The full list of vendors, weekly activities, and other market info is available at www.westmarketkingston.com

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