What if we take a former municipal fish hatchery and transform it into a farmers’ market? And how about repurposing those big steel fish tanks into stalls? Why not! One of the newest year-round farmers’ markets in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma is the Mill Market. The Sault Ste. Marie Fish Hatchery was built in 1987 and closed 10 years ago. The city now rents out the building and property to the Mill Market, which is a non-profit corporation.
Their clever use of the space is just one of the reasons this market place is more popular now than ever. It will be celebrating its fifth year open in 2018 and has strengthened the local food movement in Algoma! At 35 Canal Dr., just west of the Sault's downtown core and in the historic Mill District – beside St. Marys River and the Hub Trail – the Mill Market buzzes with activity every Saturday and Wednesday.
Alison Lynes is the market manager and we had the opportunity to sit down and chat before the market opened on a Saturday morning. She told me that the farmers for this market come from three main areas around the Algoma District, which includes the western part of the City of Sault Ste. Marie, Prince Township, St. Joseph Island, Echo Bay, and the Desbarats area. Alison mentioned that people are pleasantly surprised to know that many farmers in Algoma have been able to extend the growing season by using covers and greenhouses for some of their crops. This means that local food can be grown nearly year-round.
There are strict criteria for farm vendors at the market, with the main requirement that food must always be sourced within Ontario. Most of the food is grown and produced right here in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma, as it’s too expensive to transport it from southern Ontario. Vendors sell their own products or will sell for their farm neighbours, with clear signage indicating where it comes from. Farmers are also happy to share the growing practices of their farm – just another reason to buy local!