It has been just over a week since a devastating fire leveled the main building at the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market over the Labour Day weekend. The following morning, my Facebook feed was absolutely blasted with people sharing their shock and disbelief about the fire. According to a recent Globe and Mail article, of a community of 300 regular vendors, “67 vendors lost their place of business,” and “25 more had places under a perimeter awning”. Fortunately no one was hurt, but the general consensus is that with harvest season upon us, this is just about the worst time of year that something like this could happen.
When you live in this community, the Market is an ingrained ritual, a place to enjoy warm apple fritters with friends, stock up on fresh local veggies for the week, and maybe to treat yourself to a $5 bouquet of seasonal flowers. We locals know to show up around 2 or 3 o’clock, near the end of the day for unbeatable deals on fresh, local produce. I hate to say it, but I had almost started to take the market for granted- until an event like this makes you stop and reflect on just how much this market means to people in our community. And I’m not just talking about St. Jacobs, or even Kitchener-Waterloo. There are people that regularly make the drive here from Toronto, Caledon, Orangeville and other not so close cities to enjoy the increasingly romantic notion of a traditional farmer’s market.
Now, a week after the devastation, authorities have ruled out foul play. With all the wooden timber in that building, no one seems surprised at how quickly it went up in flames. Despite quaint visions of Mennonites coming together for an epic barn raising type rebuild, the SJFM is owned and run by the Mercedes Corp, and they will go through the usual insurance procedures required to rebuild the main building. It’s the individual vendors that lost their entire stock of handmade arts and crafts that I feel the worst for. Meat and cheese will be replaced, but some of the artwork housed on the upper level of the main building is irreplaceable.
For now, the best thing people can do to support the market community is to go purchase goods from vendors as usual on Thursdays and Saturdays. As a professional portrait photographer, I’m lucky to have control of my day to day work hours. When the market put out the word that they would be open as usual for Thursday Market hours, I shuffled some commitments, threw my camera bag in the car and headed for St. J’s to document the damage. Less than one week after the fire, here’s what I saw.
The strangest sight I encountered: a lone, uprooted carrot, roasted in the fire.
These 2 buildings are still intact, thanks to local firefighters that focused their efforts on containing the fire to one building.
Sign posts next door are warped and bubbled from the heat.
Learn more details in a CBC news article on the fire, and make sure to visit the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market throughout this harvest season to help support the vendors that are still able to work there. I know this community will have the main building up and running again just as soon as humanly possible.
Kindly show your support for the SJFM vendors, or share a personal story of yours from the market in the comments below.