BY ANDREW COPPOLINO | AUGUST 2022
Here’s a selection of farmer-producers and hand-crafted food specialists (who often use the Region’s fresh local ingredients for their food preparation) that you will find as you eat your way through the Kitchener Market!
When wartime conditions forced Grandfather Gmach out of his local job, he set himself up with a farm and started selling produce at the Kitchener Market. That was in the 1930s, and his son Karl Gmach eventually took over – and still can be seen on Saturdays selling to customers.
It’s a larger family affair now with Karl’s sons Joe and Chris and their kids farming over 50 acres and nearly three dozen crops: from early lettuces and herbs to eggplant and kohlrabi and everything in between: you name it, and Gmach Gardens grows it, it would seem.
“I’d say one of the biggest shifts we’ve seen at the Market is to international foods,” says Joe Gmach. “But whatever it is, coming here is a family tradition for us.”
Proprietor’s Pick: “Right now, I really like potatoes, the carrots and cabbage,” Gmach says. “And this week, I took a first taste of tomatoes. They’re like candy! For me, the first thing with produce is that it be fresh and good quality.”
Fresh and Tasty Mushrooms
Fresh and Tasty Mushrooms have been vendors at the Market since May. Co-owners and mushroom farmers Shannon Coleclough and Sean Declerc grow about 15 varieties of fungi on what was once Declerc’s grandparents’ farm in Amaranth, Ontario. They also sell wild Canadian mushrooms when in season.
“Educating customers about different mushrooms and how to store and cook them is a big part of what we do,” says Coleclough.
Over the course of the year, you’ll find black oyster mushrooms, morels, chanterelles (coming around now) and lion’s mane mushrooms. While greenhouse mushrooms grow in the dark, the varieties “know” what season it is, according to Coleclough.
“They’re amazing. Different mushrooms grow in the warmer and cooler times of the year,” she says. “They just know what season it is, even though they’re inside in the dark.”
Proprietor’s Pick: “I’d have to go with chanterelles all the way,” says Coleclough. “Although, pioppino mushrooms are a close second. Just a simple preparation with butter, salt and pepper in a frying pan.”
Charles Quality Meats
Since 1978 when their father started Charles Quality Meats (CQM) and selling at the Market, sons Peter, Sam and Tony Lobrutto have maintained his standards for high-quality, “old-country” farming and butchery in their St. Agatha facility and for a wide range of meats.
In fact, they will explain how, in his youth in Sicily, Charles was something of a “lamb whisperer” taking great care of his animals – something the “tre fratelli” see to today.
“It’s very important to him that the animals don’t get upset,” says Tony. “I don’t know anyone who can handle livestock like he can.”
The core products at the Kitchener and St. Jacobs markets, and the Waterloo retail store, remain beef, pork, lamb, goat and rabbit, according to Tony. “But our goat, which we grow, is becoming more mainstream than ever before. That’s great to see.”
As do many market vendors, CQM acknowledges the loyal customers who supported them during the very difficult times of the pandemic. “It’s only slowly coming back now, and we have to thank our clientele for that,” says Tony.
Proprietor’s Pick: The seasons don’t matter in this case, according to Tony. “It’s our lamb loin chop that I go for. I marinate it in our own Charles’ marinade and grill it. It doesn’t matter, summer or winter.”
Nancy and Glen Ackroyd have been bringing five honeys to the Market from their hives in Bruce and Grey counties since 2016: summer blossom, wildflower blossom, blueberry blossom, buckwheat blossom and creamed.
“The first honey is spring alfalfa and then after haying, it’s wild flowers which the bees collect flying up to five kilometres,” says Nancy.
She points out that there isn’t a lot of cash cropping in the bees’ range so that means no insecticides which can contribute to harming the bees. “A lot of factors can affect bees, but we’ve been lucky to lose only about 30 per cent of the our bees, compared to other farmers who have lost up to 55 per cent,” she says.
Thirty per cent may not seem like a lot: until you realize that Ackroyd Honey tends 1,200 hives with between 150,000 to 180,000 bees per hive. (You do the math!).
Every couple of years, Ackroyd bees are settled into a transport truck for a three-week tenure in Quebec to help pollinate blueberry crops.
Ackroyd has noticed that a younger clientele at the Market is purchasing quite a bit of honey. “They’re smart about nutrition,” she says. “And, generally, the local customers at the Kitchener Market are buying larger quantities of honey.”
Proprietor’s Pick: “Depending on use, I have two favourite honeys. I use the summer blossom for baking because it is lighter. For my cottage cheese and Greek yogurt, it’s blueberry. It’s fruity and sweet and the perfect match with carbs, fat and protein.”
TWB Cooperative Brewing
There is no doubt that the food and beverage landscape changed during the pandemic – but a positive change was a revamping of liquor licensing in the province which included allowing breweries to sell their wares at farmers’ markets in April 2021.
Kitchener’s TWB took advantage and since July 2021 customers have been regularly shopping for their beer at the Market along with their meats, produce, honey and fresh flowers.
“We’ve been happily surprised at Kitchener Market, which is a real community hub,” says TWB worker-owner James Lamb. “Sales have been brisk and steady, and we see a lot of repeat customers. It’s different than what we see at St. Jacobs, which has more tourist traffic.”
TWB brings a selection of about six beers to their Market booth, focusing on classic expressions of a beer style. “We strive for excellent examples of a particular beer that are engaging and accessible to customers,” Lamb says.
Proprietor’s Pick: “I’d probably go with our Moosalamoo” (a forest area in New England) says Lamb. “It’s a great example of a New England IPA hazy and with good body and hop profile. It gets a bit of sweetness from some peach and apricot.”