Saturday Market Day - A Ste-Anne Tradition
A Look Back
The tradition of the market is very much appreciated today, but we must look back to remember that a lot of work and perseverance was put in by a few very devoted people. In fact, before the market could become what it is today, a few things had to be put into place, namely an idea! We owe this idea to Bano Mehdi, a researcher at McGill at the time. Years back, when the idea of the market was still in the early stages, there was rising criticism of the conventional system of agriculture and the globalization of the food industry by a growing number of citizens. Bano`s idea of opening a public market in Ste Anne de Bellevue, where the local organic producers could sell their products without a middle man, was gaining momentum. The idea also followed the demands of students from the agricultural program on MacDonald campus, who would have liked to have access to affordable organic produce, without have to travel too far. Apart from the larger markets like Atwater and Jean Talon, situated in downtown Montreal, no outdoor market existed in the West Island, especially not one which ascribed to the philosophy of eating locally and organically. Most of the produce in the large Montreal markets came from Ontario or the U.S.. One particular feature of the Sainte-Anne`s market was to be that the producers would come from the nearby surrounding regions.
In May of 2001, Bano and his friend Olivier Dubreuil presented an official proposal to the Director General of the town of Ste Anne`s for the public market project. The ''Committee of Economic Development and Tourism'' were, thankfully, in support of the idea and on the 16th of June, 2001, the Sainte-Anne's market opened its doors, or, rather, its tents. The first year, six producers (Elwood Quinn, William Golding, Jean Fournel, Alison Hackney, Loise Ecuyer et Yogécostère) were present every Saturday.
A modest start in comparison to the 30 merchants and producers present at today's market. Nonetheless, a crowd of between 50 and 250 people showed up every Saturday.
May the Tradition Continue, but first.....A few thank-yous to make
It must be said that the support of the town was essential for the project to take shape. There needed to be a place to put the market. The designated place changed several times; in the beginning the market was held in the parking lot across from the Town Hall, later it was moved to the boardwalk, then back to the parking lot. Last year it was moved to the circular parking lot at the bottom of St. Pierre street where it meets Ste Anne`s street, right by the Couche Tard. Another element from the town which was necessary for the smooth running of the market, was the support through personnel and materials. So, two assistants (Mariana Rodrigez and Dana Chevalier) were hired to help the initial employees (Bano, Olivier and Caroline Begg) with the set up and take down of the kiosks. After the first trial year, the town financed the market with tents to shelter the kiosks and also to give the market a more attractive look. The support of volunteers and members of the community was equally important – Bano Mehdi remembers that nine volunteers from McGill University were huge participants in the success of the project in its early years. Caroline Begg, Olivier Dubreuil, Bano Mehdi, Mariana Rodrigez, Dana Chevalier, Lise-Anne Briand, Matt Charbonneau and Fredérik Thériault were also important players in the advancement of the market. Even today, the addition of volunteers who give a helping hand to the employees (Lise-Anne Briand, Caroline Begg, Erika White, Darcy White) who set up and take down the market every week, are essential to the successful running of the market.
The Market Grows and the season lengthens – in winter, we can still eat fresh produce!
If the rallying effect within the community was remarkable, it was even more surprising to see it from the neighbouring communities. Even in the early years, people from as far as NDG came to our end of the island. It is still the case today, for a number of Montrealers who make their way (by car, but often by bicycle as well!) to seek the unique ambiance found at the market, and mainly for the local,organic produce. The enthusiasm of the citizens for a farmer's market was quickly picked up on by the media who made a great contribution to the market by keeping them in the public eye.
Due to the popularity of the summer market, several clients suggested to have somewhere in the winter where art products as well as food products could be purchased. This suggestion bore fruit as the market opened up in the basement of Saint George`s Church on rue St. Georges in Ste Anne`s. Here one could do the weekly shopping while listening to local musicians, meeting friends and neighbours, as well as celebrating different events and holidays. The Christmas market was a particularly important event for the merchants during the winter months, as well as the visitors who found everything they needed for their Christmas feast, treats and presents. If some seasons were necessary for the winter market to become a habit, it was worth it for the Saturday morning meeting is every bit as essential in January as in July! The winter market has now finished its fifth year of operation.
The Market grows some off-shoots!
Another important step for the Ste Anne' Market was in 2009, when it became a member of The Association of Public Markets of Quebec (AMPQ). The markets finally had an association that would define them and support them, which is the case for all the markets of Quebec. Finally, in 2011, Jean Fournel of the farm Anse au Sable, inspired by the success of the Ste Anne's Market, joined with Lise-Anne Briand, the present coordinateur of the market, started a market in Ile Perrot, a neighbouring town. The Ile Perrot market takes place on Wednesdays from 4pm-8pm, in the parking lot of the Tourist Information Office, on the side of Highway 20. One can find a number of producers who are also present at the Ste Anne`s market, as well as some new vendors such as a wine producer, a bakery, cheese vendors, meat vendors and others.
Last year, the organization in charge of the market decided to have a kisok in the middle of the market where fresh food donated by the vendors present on the day would be prepared. So, Orlando's Tastings was launched to the happiness of the visitors who got an eyeful as well as a mouthful! Since then, several other markets in the area have adopted the idea and the cook from Sainte-Anne's, Orlando Echeverria makes the rounds of the region, proposing improvised recipes giving value to the products being sold locally, as well as inspiring clients to play with the flavours.
For Ste Anne de Bellevue, the market has been a turning point. In fact, our little village has been put on the map, and will continue to be as long as the events surrounding and involving the market keep growing in number. Since its creation, several other community initiatives have come out, such as the Coop Grande Orme. The market has been part of the list of initiatives that allowed Ste Anne's to become the third city in the province to make the list of ''Fair Trade Certified''. This shows that these ideas will continue to grow and inspire others. As Bano reminds us, from this adventure we can conclude that ''even the smallest of seeds can produce the tastiest of harvests. For all their support and their contributions in this journey, we are grateful to all the volunteers, employees, merchants and our loyal market customers.