“Everything is in place.”
Those were the excited and grateful words of Antigonish Farmers’ Market Association president Casey van de Sande following the announcement from Central Nova MP Sean Fraser that the federal government, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s (ACOA) Innovative Communities Fund, would be contributing $700,000 to the new farmer’s market building, planned for the exhibition grounds on James Street.
“A larger building that allows for more vendors, [will be] open year-round which will extend the season for our producers, [includes] a commercial kitchen, online sales,” Fraser noted during his speech, talking about just some of the benefits the new building will bring to the farmers’ market.
“It will, really, make a meaningful difference to help businesses here scale-up, and more businesses to get off the ground in the first place,” he added during the announcement, which took place as the famers’ market was going on Saturday (July 13) morning, around him, van de Sande and others taking the podium.
Others included Municipality of the County of Antigonish Warden Owen McCarron, Town of Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher and Steven Eadie from Antigonish Farmers’ Mutual Insurance. Both municipalities and the business have made significant contributions to the new building campaign as well ($200,000 from the county and Farmers’ Mutual, $150,000 from the town).
“The Antigonish Farmers’ Market has grown and expanded so much over the past 20 plus years, from its humble beginnings in 1995 with a handful vendors to today, seeing hundreds if not thousands of people come through the doors on any given Saturday and a building busting at the seams with vendors,” McCarron said during his time at the podium.
“The Antigonish Farmers’ Market is not only giving people from our area and beyond the chance to buy locally produced, healthy, sustainable goods, but giving the farmers, growers, crafters, cooks and bakers an avenue to distribute their goods.”
Boucher talked about food security as part of her speech.
“The market builds our rural economy and increases our local food security by being a source for home grown, quality food,” she said.
“Beyond the economic and business benefits, our farmers’ market gives our community access to fresh, healthy foods that promote the importance of healthy eating. The town is so excited to see this vision for the Antigonish Farmers’ Market become a reality.”
Eadie noted Farmers’ Mutual management and staff have a “long association with the farmers’ market.”
“We have been vendors at the market, shoppers at the market, and local promoters of the market and its objectives; we believe very strongly in this project,” he said, adding they’re very proud to be the lead private sponsor.
“This is largest single donation in our company’s history which speaks to the belief in, and importance of, this project.”
van de Sande used his time at the podium to thank not only the financially investors in the project, but all those who have supported and continue to support the famers’ market.
“This is a great day,” he started with, before thanking the group standing behind him.
“To the many businesses, both locally and beyond, and individuals who gave so generously, whether it was $1, $1,000 or more, thank you for making this dream of ours come true. Without the general public we wouldn’t be here today; not only in regards to our fundraising effort, but it’s to say thank you for this market being as vibrant and successful as it is.
“With all the combined efforts, we were able to raise about $650,000 locally.
“And thanks to the Federation of Agriculture for providing us with a long-term lease for the location of the new building, and to 4-H for allowing us to use this building for the past number of years; it’s with great appreciation but it’s time for us to more on.
“Everyone deserves to be proud of the work that has been accomplished and we look forward to a great future for the Antigonish Farmers’ Market.”
Asked by reporters about a timeline now that the funding is in place, van de Sande said a hopeful start time would be shortly following the Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition.
“There is a possibility,” he said of the start-time. “But it takes time to order the materials and all of that. We have to have a foundation and we don’t want to work in the wintertime … they tell us that,” he added, noting they’re also being told it will take three or four months “to put up the building.”
As for fundraising, van de Sande said it continues with the focus now on aspects of the building such as the commercial kitchen.
“This will put up the building but there is, always, continuous work that has to be done,” he said.
Fraser talked about the project ticking all the boxes for him as the MP for the area.
“It’s hard to think of one where it doesn’t,” he said.
“From my perspective, forget the one for the government’s, if I think about my own priorities as the local MP, the things I care about are creating economic opportunities for people to stay in rural Nova Scotia, if they choose. Things like developing stronger, more vibrant communities; making sure you’re supporting a healthy environment by having locally grown, healthy food that is transported only a couple of miles instead of a couple of time zones away.
“It’s hard to imagine a project easier to get behind.”
He talked more about the economic impact.
“The market already has a more than $1.6 million economic impact in the region each year; I expect that to grow,” he said. “New vendors with better resources, a new ability for them to market their products online as well; this is going to see economic returns that will make the investment worth it in, just, the first couple of years.
“I’m just excited to see how many more people will come to the market.”