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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

If You Build It – The Market Master Plan

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CHARLOTTETOWN – When Kevin Costner wandered into his corn field and encountered the baseball legends of past generations, he was given this simple reassurance — “If you build it, they will come.”  While Costner, playing farmer Ray Kinsella in The Field of Dreams, was trying to not sound too crazy when pitching the idea of a baseball field where his corn once stood, the idea of a Farmer’s Market, once the playground of the granola munchers and Mennonites, has gone mainstream with attendees, not the purveyors, going crazy.

I remember going to ‘The Market’ growing up in Kitchener, Ontario.  Our regular pilgrimage out to the St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market, complete with a visit to the livestock auction, followed by a hot apple cider and meal at the Stone Crock, was an event that the whole family looked forward too.  Fast-forward 25 years and the Farmer’s Market is back in vogue in our family and, much like I remember it as a child, it is part of our weekly routine.  When company visited from out of town this summer, we relished a visit to the Farmer’s Market to show off the very best meat and produce that the Island had to offer.  The Farmer’s Market is even generating some revenue for my family this year with my wife selling at the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market Christmas Artisan’s Fair.

Unfortunately, the market is a victim of its own success.  A few weeks ago I arrived at the market just before 9am (all good market goers arrive early!) only to be shocked to find one of Charlottetown’s finest on patrol in the parking lot.  At first I thought that perhaps some unruly ruffians had vandalized the market, but quickly realized that he was there not for a crime that had been committed, but to try and prevent the traffic mayhem that is part of the Saturday ritual.

This, of course, got me to thinking.  The market is a beautiful building, all rustic and inspiring, the way a good farmer’s market should be.  It has, however, outgrown both the building and the parking lot over on Belvedere Avenue.  In talking with people in the know at the market, I discovered that there is a waiting list of vendors, another indicator of the ravenous success of this marketplace, as well as a willingness to grow both the agricultural and artistic offerings, but what to do when there is no place to grow?

Though I am relatively new to the Island, I love the market and all it stands for and I would never advocate for moving the market as it is not only a staple of the tourism industry during the summer, but provides much needed fresh produce for the UPEI students and surrounding neighbourhoods, a welcome alternative to either Sobey’s or The Superstore.

If relocation is not an option, then Costner, channeling Kinsella, must have the answer — “if you build it, they will come.” — but where to build?  A neighbourhood is built around its amenities.  From places of instruction and worship, to retail and service establishments, neighbourhoods need businesses that provide both the needs and wants of its residents.  The car-centric design of modern sprawl neighbourhoods is a glut on society as well as the precious fiscal and environmental resources we have, but those are where the people, and historically the people with higher disposable incomes, have chosen to reside.  As much as I hate to reward bad behaviour, bringing the market to the masses, instead of the masses to the market, may be a worthy first-step in rehabilitating the suburban trends in our cities.

So, Islanders, want-to-be-Islanders, and even those with just an opinion, where would you build the new Charlottetown Farmer’s Market?  We, of course, want to have it accessible by both public and personal transit, cars, bikes and feet.  It needs to have space enough for the vendors and consumers and needs to tap that important tourist segment during the summer months.  It should also have ample opportunity to grow, both in business and community interaction, as both the building and the products become a part of the fabric of the community like the existing location has done so well.

I’ve created a collaborative Google Map.  Take some time to review what other people have recommended, mark your own recommendations and give us your justification for your pick.  Maybe, just maybe, we can all collectively channel Kinsella and build a Farmer’s Market, part two, in Charlottetown.

Photo by Peter Rukavina