Some big changes are in the works to bring Ontario’s oldest outdoor market into the 21st century.
A staff report going to the City of Kingston’s arts, recreation and community policies committee recommends offering more choices for customers who visit the Kingston Public Market at Springer Market Square on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Among the new food programming options planned for this season:
- Offering food with beer and wine samplings
- Grab-and-go food to promote local restaurants and support farm-to-table initiatives
- Chef demonstrations every Saturday morning in July and August with locally-sourced ingredients
Staff say introducing alcohol to the outdoor market experience is something the public has wanted.
“These value-added products are produced locally and are incredibly popular with customers. The intent is to offer these (alcohol) products with food pairings,” according to a report by Peter Huigenbos, city commissioner of business, environment and projects.
Many of these initiatives were first identified a few years ago but could not be offered sooner due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
In addition to more locally-sourced food and beverage options for consumers, the report also recommends the city slash vendor stall rental fees by 50 per cent this season in exchange for
a donation made to various local food/meal organizers, and to waive all rental fees at the other popular farmers’ market at the Kingston Memorial Centre.
The committee is scheduled to discuss the changes at its April 28 meeting, but it will be up to council to approve the recommendations.
The proposed improvements are part of council’s strategic priority to increase availability and access to local food at the Kingston Public Market.
Another key recommendation, which likely won’t be in place until the 2023 market season, is to overhaul the entire operation of the Kingston Public Market to ensure its future viability and to attract and retain local farmers.
To that end, it’s recommended that the city issue a request for proposals to find an operator to develop a different market model that will focus on local foods and local farmers, with less reliance on food re-sellers.
“Growers and farmers cannot compete in pricing and availability of products with the re-seller vendors that purchase their food directly from local distribution companies,” the report states.
Bringing in new management to operate the Market Square space — such as a new or existing association with a dedicated market manager — is based on extensive feedback from the public, Tourism Kingston, Downtown Kingston Businesses improvement Area, other stakeholders, and the vendors themselves.
“This role would oversee the day-to-day operations and support the vendors to improve these operations, “ says Huigenbos.
Even though the outdoor market that operates behind City Hall is often called the farmers’ market, it technically does not meet that definition. However, these operational changes would be a step towards achieving that designation, according to the staff report.
City officials say having the farmers’ market designation exempts markets from certain local health unit measures and inspections, making it easier to offer special events related to food and beverage offerings and regular food programming such as sampling.
The Kingston Public Market has been providing food and a community gathering space since 1801, and typically sells produce, prepared foods, garden plants, flowers and handmade crafts during warmer weather.
In winter, the historic Market Square transforms into an artificial skating rink.