Thursday afternoon was grey and chilly. Not the best weather for the final day of the 2020 Innisfil Farmers’ Market, held outdoors in the south parking lot of the Innisfil Recreation Complex.
But even after a rainy September and chilly October, market manager Jaime Grant noted, “It was the best season we’ve ever had. The tenth year was the most successful. The most vendors, the biggest variety of vendors, the biggest sales.”
Although it's disappointing not to have an indoor market this year, “it’s a huge success story for Innisfil. Every business here has done really well,” Grant said.
She credited the vendors with helping to create a ‘market community,' by coming out week after week, but also all of the customers, who became 'regulars' at the weekly market.
“Without people coming out to support ‘local,’ it doesn’t work,” she said.
The positive view of the market was echoed by vendors.
“Absolutely an amazing year for us,” said Donna Irving of Rosie’s Meat Pies. “Double, triple last year.”
During the pandemic, there has been a big demand for the “home-made, hearty” meat pies, which regularly sold out at every market, Irving said. "I'm smiling behind my face mask."
"Fantastic. Amazing new customers that are regulars now," said Sophia Siachos of Zena's Cookies, home-made dog treats. With the closing of the Innisfil market, Zena's Cookies will be moving to the Orillia year-round market and online ordering but, said Siachos, "I'll be back next year."
“It’s been good. There’s been a lot of regular customers,” said Jan Rainey, of R Family Farm, located near Cookstown. “I love my regular customers.”
The farm was down to a single booth on the final day of the market. “End of season,” Rainey explained – with just local squash, gourds, a limited selection of other farm-fresh produce, and the famous R Family Farm jams and preserves still available.
Several artisans came out for the final day of the market.
‘Rustic Birdhouses by Morley’ has only been at the market for the past month, and it has rained almost every market day. Even so, said Morley Whittle, business has been “not bad.”
He has no plans to try other farmers’ markets over the winter months. Instead, Whittle will be focusing on online sales for his birdhouses and feeders – and yes, before you ask, “I guess I was drawn to making birdhouses by my last name,” he said.
Marlene Kell brought her ‘Pleasures and Pastimes’ hand-made face masks to the market, with top sellers that included Remembrance Day poppies and Halloween-themed masks.
“If somebody would have said six months ago I’d be selling masks, I’d have said, ‘What for?’,” said Kell.
Face masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing have been a regular part of the Innisfil Farmers' Market this year, allowing it to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the cooperation of both vendors and customers.
Over at the Lakeview Gardens booths, line-ups and social distancing have been the norm all season, with members of the Radcliffe family serving up to four customers at a time.
“It’s been absolutely incredible,” said Rob Radcliffe. “We’re busier than ever. We’re happy!”
With the market closing, Lakeview Gardens will continue to operate its own retail store on Killarney Beach Road in Lefroy, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays, offering fresh local produce until the cooler weather and shorter days put an end to the growing season, as well as Innisfil Creek Honey, Everything Maple & More sauces and dips, home-made jams and jellies, and for Christmas, flowering cyclamen and Christmas cactus.
At her Summer Oven Bakery booth, Grant once again was selling out of her fresh-baked treats . As customers bought her S’Mores, date squares and pecan butter tarts, she had the same market farewell for all: “Have a great winter, and we’ll see you in June!”