It is hard to gauge the loss of a place like St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market. Early yesterday morning the main building burned to the ground. News reports say it was “gutted by fire,” but photographs reveal nothing was left standing except the tall posts visible in the photograph above. Thanks to a windless night, firefighters were able to prevent the blaze from spreading to the livestock buildings and Peddlar’s Village flea market nearby. No one was hurt.
The distinctly Mennonite community of St. Jacobs ties into many happy memories. With my family I started visiting the village’s artisan shops almost 40 years ago. However, it was the farmers’ market that drew me and my children for summer food adventures along with thousands of other tourists and shoppers. It billed itself “Canada’s largest year-round farmers’ market.”
I will never forget the joy on a little girl’s face (my daughter Brenna) invoked by a giant dill pickle on a stick. Apple fritters from The Fritter Co. consisted of fat apple disks battered and deep-fried. I had to give them up years ago due to gluten issues, but will never forget. The upstairs gallery hosted a range of craftspeople: quilts, gemstones, soaps and candles. Yesterday during my morning brewing ritual I noticed that my supply of “Dream of Calabria” from St. Jacobs Tea Company was running low, so we were due for visit.
That was before I read the news. Now all those places along with some 60 other vendors’ stalls are gone. “Many of them were there since the building opened back in the late 1980s,” the market said yesterday on its Facebook page. “There is a long road ahead, but we will build a new home for your businesses.”
In fact already today the market announced it will open on Thursday and Saturday this week with outdoor vendors and the flea market. Everyone will consider this fortunate, especially as late summer harvest gears up.
It is hard to imagine many people will not go to witness the tragic spectacle, so the place will probably be as crowded as ever. However, such a treasured Ontario landmark cannot fail to rise from the ashes.
[Update: here is a public document listing alternate locations for many of the vendors.]
Photos courtesy of Allie Caulfield via Creative Commons on Flickr.