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Ottawa Farmers' Market Under Attack

Sunday, September 27, 2009 Posted by Travis Saunders

Photo by NatalieMaynor.

It has become accepted wisdom that refined foods are a major cause of the current obesity epidemic.  Just as bad, last week the Centre for Science in the Public Interest released a report claiming that the excess salt in processed foods "likely kills more Canadians every year than any other chemical substance".  Refined foods are the antithesis of a healthy diet, and yet they make up the vast majority of the products found in most grocery stores.  In contrast, farmers' markets offer a great opportunity to purchase the unrefined, nutritious foods that are critical to a healthy diet.  

I am a big fan of farmers' markets. They are an excellent way to get delicious, unrefined, fresh fruits and vegetables, not to mention local meat (both wild and farmed), baking, flowers, crafts, honey, and local entertainment (growing up in Fredericton I performed as a professional juggler at the Boyce Farmers' Market from the age of 12 until my first year of university, and I moonlighted at the Jemseg Market for a couple summers as well).  I currently live in Ottawa, which is having a renaissance when it comes to farmers' markets, with local markets now operating in Vanier, Old Ottawa East, Parkdale and throughout suburbs like Carp and Gatineau as well (I don't really count Byward Market which is far more touristy, although it has fresh produce as well).  Given Ottawa's apparent love for farmers' markets, I was shocked to hear that a new development may halve the size of the original Ottawa Farmers' Market - the most prominent farmers' market in the Ottawa region. 

The current Ottawa Farmers' Market is located at Lansdowne Park, which is sandwiched between the Rideau Canal (a UNESCO world heritage site) and Bank Street, a major shopping district. The City of Ottawa has recently decided to embark on a public-private partnership to redevelop the park, in a move which would dramatically reduce the size of the current market, as well as most of the green space on the site, which will be replaced by 400,000 square feet of commercial space.  Fans of the market are worried that it will be crushed by the new development, the vibrant local business community on Bank Street is worried that they will be run into the ground by the new box stores, and others worry about everything from insufficient parking and transit access to the whopping $100+ million that the city is pumping into the project without any clear explanation of how the redevelopment will benefit the people of Ottawa.  It's not just the foodies and the businessmen protecting their own interests who are upset - the head of the Carleton University MBA program has said that "If I was evaluating this as a business loan proposal, as a banker, I would reject it out of hand...".

Now this redevelopment could be a really great idea for the people of Ottawa, but so far that doesn't seem to be the case.  The development plan did not go through a transparent, competitive bidding process, which means that people really don't know much about the plan at all, or what impact it will have on the Ottawa Farmers' Market. Luckily, there are public consultations taking place over the next few days, which will help to determine whether or not this plan goes forward.

The consultations are:

Monday, September 28, 6 to 9 p.m.
Lansdowne Park, Salon A
1015 Bank Street

Tuesday, September 29, 6 to 9 p.m.
Ron Maslin Playhouse, Lobby
1 Ron Maslin Way, Kanata

Wednesday, September 30, 6 to 9 p.m.
Ottawa City Hall, Jean Pigott Place
110 Laurier Avenue West

Thursday, October 1, 6 to 9 p.m.
Jim Durrell Complex, Elwood Hall
1265 Walkley Road

Monday, October 5, 6 to 9 p.m.
Tom Brown Arena, Hall
141 Bayview Road

Tuesday, October 6, 6 to 9 p.m.
Shenkman Arts Centre, Lower Lobby
245 Centrum Boulevard, Orléans

If the City of Ottawa recognizes the importance of fresh produce to a healthy diet, let's hope that any plans for Lansdowne Park improve, rather than dismantle the Ottawa Farmers' Market. I urge all of our readers in the Ottawa region to attend one of the public consultations, or complete an e-consultation on the City of Ottawa website here.  Or, feel free to email your councilor (or the mayor if you live outside of Ottawa) to let them know that you feel that farmers markets are critical to the nutrition of our National Capital.  Contact information for all members of City Council can be found here.  For more information on the proposed redevelopment, please visit the Friends of Lansdowne Park website here.

For more information on farmers' markets and their role in a healthy diet, please visit Darya Pino's Summer Tomato blog here.


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2 Response to "Ottawa Farmers' Market Under Attack"

  1. Matt Said,

    Great article Travis. I just sent the city an email as you suggested. Farmers markets are really a part of a city's cultural identity and I would hate to lose them.

    Posted on September 28, 2009 at 10:13 AM

  2. Travis Saunders Said,

    @ Matt,

    Thanks for taking the time to voice your opinion. Hopefully it pays off :)


    Posted on September 28, 2009 at 10:40 AM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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