Food and Community at the Trout Lake Farmers Market in Vancouver
Farmers Market Season
May to October is farmers market season in southwestern British Columbia. There are several markets not far from my home. My favourite one is the Trout Lake Farmers Market, which is held in John Hendry Park in East Vancouver. Here I can buy fresh produce, artisan baked goods, plants to grow at home and attractive and often unique crafts. I enjoy the festive atmosphere at the weekly event and the interaction with the friendly vendors and customers that I meet.
The market at Trout Lake is very popular for several reasons - the goods that it sells, the entertainment and education that it offers and its lovely location. The event always seems like a community celebration to me. Performing musicians and an entertainment station for children are present every time I visit. People who provide information about local food, gardening or environmental issues are also present every week.
After visiting the market I walk around the lake, which is located in John Hendry Park near the market. A Saturday morning visit to the market and park is a great way to start the weekend. All of the photos in this article were taken by me on my trips to the area.
Market ScenesClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Trout Lake Farmers Market operates every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., starting around the middle of May and ending in late October. The times and dates are roughly the same each year. In 2016, the market runs from May 7th to October 22nd. There are four other summer farmers markets in the Vancouver area, as well as a winter one that runs from November to April.
Most vendors visit the Trout Lake market on a rotating basis. Their wares depend on what is currently being grown. Produce and baked good vendors are always present. A lot of the produce is organic. Other vendors sell items such as wild salmon, meats, cheeses, herbs, spices, pickles, preserves, honey, granola mixes and artisan chocolates. There are often artisan cider, beer or wine vendors at the market as well.
The coffee and crepe sellers and the hot food vendors are at the market every week. Visitors need to be prepared to either join a long queue to buy a crepe or to get to the market early. The crepes are very popular. It's also advisable for a visitor to arrive early if they want the best selection of baked goods. As 2 p.m. approaches, the bakery stalls may not have much left to offer visitors.
A Visit to the Trout Lake Farmers Market
Crafts and Plants
Crafters are an important part of the Trout Lake market. On a specific day there may be painters, photographers, potters, woodworkers, jewelry makers, fibre artists or textile artists present. “Vancouver Farmers Markets” is the society which runs all of the Vancouver markets. It holds a craft jury each year to decide which crafters are allowed to sell their creations.
The market also sells potted plants to grow in a garden, on a balcony or in a house. These seem to be almost as popular as the food. There are always beautiful flowers for sale. On one of my visits I found an interesting carnivorous plants stall.
Advantages of Buying Food at Farmers Markets
Fresh food is the healthiest kind. Fruits and vegetables lose nutrients once they're picked. Ideally, we would all grow our own produce and eat it as soon as it was picked. Most of us don’t have the space or the time to do this, however. The next best thing is to buy straight from a farm.
The growers bring their recently picked produce to the Trout Lake market and set up a temporary stall to sell their goods. The food has been grown locally and has been transported over shorter distances than a lot of the food in supermarkets and grocery stores. In addition to keeping the food fresh, this reduces pollution caused by vehicles.
Trout Lake and John Hendry Park ScenesClick thumbnail to view full-size
John Hendry Park
In the late nineteenth century, John Hendry Park was located near the site of the Hastings Sawmill. The mill and park were owned by John Hendry, an important man in the local lumber industry. Trout Lake, which is a natural peat bog lake located in the park, was the water source for the mill.
John Hendry’s daughter donated her father’s land to the Vancouver Park Board on condition that the new park was named after her father. Local people tend to call the park Trout Lake Park though, or simply "Trout Lake", since the lake is such a large and popular feature in the park.
The park is a popular place for dog walkers. At one end of the lake near the farmers market is an area where dogs are allowed to enter the water and to play off leash. They do both of these things with great energy and enjoyment. All of the dogs seem to get on very well with each other. At the opposite end of the lake is a larger area which is reserved for human swimmers and where dogs are not allowed. A lifeguard is present in this area in summer.
John Hendry Park is very pleasant for people who would like to sit on the grass or on a bench and read a book, talk to friends or family, have a picnic or watch people and dogs playing in the park. I usually buy a baked treat at the market and eat it while sitting on the grass, like many other people do. Special events are held in the park throughout the year, including a popular lantern festival.
Activities and Facilities in the Park
There is a new community centre in John Hendry Park. Market visitors might find the washrooms handy. The centre also offers free WiFi to everyone. It's located half way between the dog beach and the human beach. It's easy for a person with normal mobility to walk to the community centre from the market and doesn't take long.
The park also contains playgrounds, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, sports fields, a picnic site and additional washrooms. The trail around the lake has a good surface for jogging. There’s lots for children and sports lovers to do in the park.
The lake and the surrounding trail is a nice area for nature lovers and an enjoyable area to explore after visiting the market. A wide variety of birds live in the habitats around the lake. However, despite its name, the lake contains no trout. Although sections of the land bordering the lake have been cleared so that people can sit in an open area, others have been left in a wild condition. These wilder areas are the parts that I find most interesting.
Location of John Hendry Park in Vancouver
The farmers market is set up in a parking lot at the north end of the lake. The dog beach is also located in this area. The human beach is larger than the dog one and is located at the south end of the lake. It's represented by the yellow area in the map above.
Getting to the Trout Lake Farmers Market by SkyTrain
SkyTrain is a rapid transit system that extends through Vancouver and the surrounding communities, mostly on an elevated track. The train stops close to the farmers market at the Broadway or Commercial Drive stations, depending on the line. The two stations are next door neighbours and are connected to each other. It's a short walk from the SkyTrain station eastwards along Broadway and then southwards down Victoria Drive to the park.
Following an Urban Trail
Another alternative for getting to the market is to cycle. The Metro Vancouver region has a network of urban trails for pedestrians, cyclists and inline skaters. Many sections of the trails are attractively bordered by plants, making them a pleasant route for travellers.
The trails are very nice for a cautious cyclist like me who dislikes riding a bike in traffic. They are also great for families with young children. One trail passes through John Hendry Park, which is a popular destination for recreational cyclists.
Travelling by Bus or Car
There are parking lots in John Hendry Park for car drivers, although the lots nearest to the market are very busy on Saturday. Buses go along the roads that border the 27.4 hectare (68 acre) park. The public transit system in Metro Vancouver is run by TransLink, which has a trip planner on its website.
If you’re in the Vancouver area and have a spare Saturday morning, a visit to the farmers market is very worthwhile. It's an enjoyable experience and provides an opportunity to buy fresh, nutritious and tasty food. John Hendry Park is fun to visit at any time, whether or not the market is operating.
Detailed vendor information for the market, a vendor schedule and a seasonal produce guide are available at the Vancouver Farmers Markets website.
© 2011 Linda Crampton
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