By Brian Clarke
For more articles on the Byward Market moving forward, check out the “Byward Market future” tag on our blog.
This is probably the last post in this “column” (at least for now) about me trying to think and come to terms with how the Byward Market could potentially grow as a farmer’s market.
So far, I have thought about why the Byward Market is not predominantly used as the market it is – in other words, how can it get more use as a grocery market on a daily basis? I have learned that people who live in the area do most of their shopping in the Market, but for those who live outside of downtown – myself included – the experience is still a novelty and something that takes conscious thought and self-motivation.
Thus, the problem I keep returning to is ways to make using the Byward Market more automatic and more ‘natural’ for the great mass of locals who live outside walking distance from the Market. And a closely related issue I’ve been having is how to discuss this challenge without taking the focus away from the farmer’s market and towards other issues surrounding the growth of the Byward Market: parking, public transit, traffic, homelessness, and municipal regulation (the focus of this column will likely shift to some of these problems in the coming weeks).
And one potential solution I keep returning to is some sort of community organization, some sort of external motivation to encourage use of the Byward Market rather than chain grocery stores. Historically, one of the biggest stimuli for social and cultural change – especially on a local level – has been such community groups, activists and social movements.
So, to further think about the idea of an Ottawa ‘slow food’ movement or group that would have a particular focus on the Byward Market, I looked for some other similar organizations in Toronto. As much as we love to bash on Toronto as Ottawans, one thing they have is a strong pro-‘slow food’ population.
While they have their slight differences, these organizations are essentially neat community centers in Toronto that takes a holistic approach to environmental issues and slow food communities. They not only have and/or support farmer’s markets, but offer classes and workshops on a huge range of topics ranging from cooking to urban farming. In other words, they do not just provide people with local produce and meats but teach them how to live a ‘slow food’ lifestyle.
If something like this existed in Ottawa, the challenge would still be to encourage people to go. Nevertheless, if there was such a programme in Ottawa – say, offered by the Byward Market or by a community group within the Byward Market – I think it could help combat the challenge I discussed above about making farmer’s market shopping seem more natural and in-sync with one’s lifestyle. This change in mentality will take education, and the hands-on, holistic variety such as that offered by these organizations would be very beneficial.