St. Norbert Farmers’ Market is going under cover this spring.
The third and final phase of an ambitious site renovation at Manitoba’s largest farmers’ market is now nearly complete, with new canopies expected to be on the site in time for opening day, says executive director Marilyn Firth.
St. Norbert announced nearly five years ago plans for site improvements including paved entranceways, improved vendor spaces, newly planted trees and washrooms.
The erection of canopies this spring to shelter vendors and visitors completes the final phase of that project, Firth said. Those canopies will offer more shelter to vendors on poor weather days through the summer months, while a four-season covered site will transform St. Norbert’s into a year-round, permanent market.
The covered canopy space will greatly improve shelter to vendors through the summer while the four-season canopy transforms St. Norbert Farmers’ Market into a much larger, permanent year-round market, Firth said.
St. Norbert’s existing covered area doesn’t offer much protection on cooler, windier days.
“It stops rain from falling on their heads but that’s all,” Firth said.
She said they hope to have the canopies erected by opening day May 20 but if timing doesn’t work out they’ll have them put up in fall so the busy spring market season isn’t disrupted by the work.
The four-season canopy enables St. Norbert to finally realize its long-held dream of operating as a year-round market, Firth said. The year-round canopy, which will be heated in winter to about 15 C, will accommodate up to 70 vendors and give more opportunity to sell many more months of the year, she said.
“This is where our market will really grow,” said Firth.
St. Norbert has run winter markets for the last three years at a nearby indoor location but has only had room for 30 vendors, and that also restricted the number of sellers who could sell on the market’s online site. (Customers picked up from vendors on site at the winter market.)
But even a winter market on this smaller scale has encouraged growers to ramp up production for winter sales of fresh produce. They’ve now invested in improved crop storage and greenhouses for earlier and later production.
“We now have vegetables at our market year round,” Firth said. “The producers just needed the opportunity of somewhere to sell it in order to invest in that.”
Firth said the canopies won’t alter the outdoor feel of the market during the warm weather, with the material allowing in natural light. People won’t feel closed in at all, she said.
“And almost 50 per cent of the market will continue to be outdoor vendors,” she said. “It’s just in bad weather and in the winter they can move in under the canopy.”
The cost for St. Norbert’s renovations and upgrades will come in at $470,000 and has been covered through a $235,000 grant from the federal government through the Canada 150 program and $75,000 from the City of Winnipeg. The remaining $160,000 will be covered through other grants.
St. Norbert is so popular vendors can be on a waiting list. Firth said some space is available for vendors to sell on Wednesdays right now, and those starting on that day can move to Saturdays as soon as space becomes available.