After our action-packed morning which included a tour of The Bodega Inn, a visit to the Bell Homestead and the historic Mohawk Chapel, the Brantford Farmers’ Market was our next destination. This historic farmers’ market has a long tradition: it was held for the first time in 1848 and is open Fridays all day and Saturdays from 7 am to 2 pm. The market was filled with locally grown fruits and vegetables, and I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with some of the farmers and merchants. A wide variety of meat products can also be found here: frozen turkeys for Thanksgiving, Polish sausage, London Broil, stuffed pork tenderloin and a wide assortment of freshly cut meats. One merchant was explaining the concept of whey butter to me, which is made from the liquid that is separated from the curd during cheese making. She called it “whey better butter”.
“Whey better butter”
A young merchant was selling gourmet cupcakes, which she bakes herself and sells on the weekend through the Farmers’ Market. Seductive flavours like vanilla chocolate or chocolate cherry cheesecake were enticing me and I was surprised to find out that she sold 400 to 500 cupcakes every weekend. Another lady was selling home-made fruit and vegetable pouches and other Mediterranean goods such a baklava, hummus, tzatziki and taboulah.
Delicious-looking cup cakes
One merchant was selling organic vegetables that are grown according to the philosophy of “community shared agriculture.” This means that for a subscription of $25 a week two adults can receive 16 weeks of freshly grown local vegetables. The participants in the program agree to receive whatever is currently harvested, and the whole program has benefits for everybody: farmers receive payment early in the season which helps them with cash flow, consumers get completely fresh vitamin-rich organic food, and the collective carbon footprint is reduced due to minimal transportation requirements and the absence of fertilizers and pesticides.
Community shared agriculture explained
Some merchants gave us apples or grape tomatoes to taste and everyone was in a good mood and we had a great laugh. Outside the market building a small band was playing folk music. Before we left the market I got to talk to a local maple syrup producer who explained the different grades of maple syrup to me: extra light, light, medium, amber and dark. I learned that the first maple syrup made in the season is lighter coloured and the sweetest. The sugar content drops as the weather gets warmer. Maple syrup making in this area only lasts from about February to early April, and it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of syrup. The Brantford Farmers’ Market turned out to be a great place to visit and provided a nice opportunity to connect with the locals and learn about their products.
Maple syrup for sale
Our whirl-wind tour of Brantford continued with a brief stop back on Harmony Square where there was a child-friendly Fall Festival going on. Children were being entertained with a fashion show, a hip hop dance class, make-up applications and other dance performances. The organizers indicated that this event was being held for the first time with four local merchants participating. Next year they are planning to include many more merchants and intend to provide even more free entertainment during the next Harvest Fest.
A fashion show on Harmony Square
Inspired by all this physical activity, it was now time for a bit of a workout for ourselves: Melissa took us on a much-needed bike-ride beside the Grand River. We parked the van beside the Brantford Civic Centre, behind the OLG Casino and started our bike ride to explore the extensive recreational trail network that Brantford has to offer.
Melissa Stevens, our local expert in Brantford
Melissa first took us on the Trans Canada Trail and our first stop was at a plaque that commemorated Brant’s Crossing, the place where Brantford was founded in the late 1700s by Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. From here we cycled across a bridge to the Gilkinson Trail on the western bank of the Brant River. Brantford’s trail system along the Grand River is part of the 80 kilometre long Hamilton to Cambridge trail. Melissa pointed out that Brantford offers great opportunities for active vacationers. In addition to the outdoor trails and nature areas, Brantford is also a popular destination for hockey, baseball and other sports tournaments and attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year to different sporting events.
Bridge over the Grand River, as viewed on our bike ride