EDMONTON- The times are changing down in Old Strathcona, and particularly so at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market.
It seems as though Edmontonians are broadening their food horizons, and it’s being reflected in the types of vendors selling their products at the market.
“We’ve been introducing a lot more ethnic food booths and it’s really bringing a whole new cultural element to the market,” explained Stephanie Szakacs, the market’s Executive Director. “Edmonton is becoming a much more multi-cultural place and I think the customers are looking for that kind of food and that kind of experience.”
The number of ethnic food booths at the Old Strathcona market has doubled in the last five years. There are currently 16 vendors selling products from a number of different nations.
“We have a lot of European foods, but we also have Caribbean foods, African foods, Mediterranean foods, Asian foods, it’s more and more every day,” said Szakacs.
Greece is also represented, by Louie Anderson and his wife. The Andersons have had their booth at the market for one year and specialize in a variety of Greek dips such as hummus and tzatziki.
“My wife is the cook and what you get here is mom’s cooking, basically. No chemicals, no preservatives, no flours, no sugars, no eggs, no mayo, no MSG or anything like that. It’s just simple ingredients, that’s it,” Louie Anderson explained.
Anderson moved to Canada from Greece in 1972 when he was just 13 years old, but says his Greek heritage is still very much a part of his life, especially the food.
“It is quite popular, and the more the customers try our homemade food the more they like it.”
That’s the part of the job Anderson likes the most; the interaction he has with his customers and getting to know them on a personal level.
“The relationships are very good. It’s awesome,” Anderson said with a smile. “Our customers are becoming friends, and we like to make sure our friends have a good time with their families and we always try to do the best we can as far as quality of food is concerned.”
An average of 10,000 people come through the doors of the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market every Saturday. Those who frequent the market on a regular bases say they’ve noticed the increase in diversity, and they like what they’ve seen and tasted.
“It seems to me that there are more (vendors) all the time, actually,” said Rick Mast. “It’s quite well received, too. I enjoy that. We’ve certainly purchased products from them and they’ve stayed, so I imagine business is good.”
“It’s great for somebody who is fussy like (my son), to try different foods and learn different cultures,” said Candice McDonald. “It just opens up a whole new world for him.”
There’s a large sense of camaraderie amongst the community at the market, which is what keeps people coming back week after week.
“There’s not a lot of places where you can actually meet the person who made the food and tell their story to you, so it’s definitely a place that people feel like it’s a family,” said Szakacs.
“Every Saturday, everybody comes by, everybody says hi,” Anderson said. “I go and say hi to everybody. I’ve met a lot of people and a lot of vendors and they’re very, very good to me.”
Over 130 vendors sell their products at the Old Strathcona Famers’ Market, which is open every Saturday from 8:00a.m. until 3:00p.m.
With files from Shannon Greer.