Holland Marsh Food Market grows into new location, produce sharing program
When Liz Gorzo opened her Holland Marsh Food Market last year, in what used to be the Canal Road Farmers Market, she knew it would just be a temporary location.
Not only was there a commercial enterprise eyeing the building on North Canal Road next to Highway 400, but the long-term plans of the Ministry of Transportation call for work to be done on the Highway 400 bridge at Canal Road, and the eventual closure of the on- and off-ramps to the Holland Marsh.
Gorzo was already looking for a new location, something closer to the new 5th Line interchange.
Later in May, the Holland Marsh Food Market will be re-opening at 3522 Line 4, “at Coffey Road,” said Gorzo – a location not only visible from the 400, but just slightly more than a kilometre from the new interchange’s eastbound off-ramp.
Gorzo will initially be operating out of several shipping containers placed on the site, offering Holland Marsh-grown produce, through agreements with more than half a dozen local growers, as well as corn from Norfolk County, fresh fruit from Niagara, and other foods in season, “all from Ontario.”
With the chilly start to the spring, the market will initially sell mainly early crops – radishes, rhubarb and the like – as well as greenhouse-grown flowers and potted plants.
“At first we’ll probably be open Thursday to Sunday,” said Gorzo. “From the July long weekend, we’ll be open every day of the week.”
And every Friday, the Holland Marsh Food Market will have a “farmers’ market vibe,” she promised, with fresh produce, vendors and local chefs.
Gorzo is also launching the local Ontario Eats farmers’ market and produce box – a produce share program with a difference.
“We want you to have choice/selection in the vegetables and fruits you receive,” said Gorzo, who researched the successes and complaints surrounding other community shared agriculture programs.
One thing she heard, again and again, was that customers wanted more flexibility, in both the frequency of deliveries and in the kinds of produce they received.
Ontario Eats will offer members a choice of three box sizes, and a variety of delivery and pickup options: 11 bi-weekly deliveries, 22 weekly deliveries, pickup at a designated hub or at the Holland Marsh Food Market.
Customers will also be able to customize the contents of their boxes, to some extent.
“They can swap out at least two items,” said Gorzo.
Those who opt for home delivery (at a fee) can swap produce or choose add-ons through the online portal, and those who pick up their boxes at the Holland Marsh Food Market will be able to directly select items from the exchange bin.
And for an extra fee, members can add eggs, fresh-baked pies, apple cider, whole milk, preserves, and more to their boxes.
Produce Share and Food Box members will receive their deliveries from mid-June (starting June 10 or 17), until the second week in November.
There is a one-time fee of $15 for the produce box or insulated produce bag in which the food will be packed, and the chance to earn Bonus Market Dollars by referring new customers to the program.
It was a challenge to work out the details and get the online portal up and running, but the Ontario Eats produce share program is now ready, and just waiting for the first harvest to get “growing,” just as the Food Market is waiting for its opening day.
“I’m scared, nervous, excited, stressed,” Gorzo admitted, but looking forward to opening weekend.