St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market
St Jacobs Farmers’ Market, located at 878 Weber St. N., is Canada’s largest year-round farmers’ market with over 250 vendors. Dating back to 1952, the market grounds include the main two-story Market Building, which houses produce, eatery, and boutique stalls, as well as Peddler’s Village and Market Tent, both of which house additional eatery, boutique, and artisanal stalls.
The market is open Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and from mid-June to Labour Day, on Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aim to bring cash or prepare to potentially line up for the ATM, as only some vendors accept debit or credit.
St. Jacobs’ combination of produce and various commercial offerings makes it a fun spot to visit on Saturday if you’re looking for a break from campus. Seating space is also fairly easy to come by, with spots on both floors of the Market Building and in the outdoor section of the market. While it does get busy quickly — arriving before 10 a.m. is a good rule if you want to beat the crowds — the crowds do add a certain vibrancy, bolstered by the market’s wide offerings. To get a better picture of what to expect, we broke down the specifics of transit, available produce, and entertainment and knick-knacks that you can find at St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market.
In our experience, the market is easiest to reach by taking the 19A bus, which heads straight to St. Jacobs. Students can also choose to bike, which is roughly a 20-minute journey, and there is bike storage provided — just don’t forget to bring your own lock!
St. Jacobs has many vendors with a pretty good range of produce. If you’re looking specifically for local produce, however, be mindful: check what’s currently in season by visiting https://www.ontario.ca/foodland/page/availability-guide, see if there are signs at the stalls denoting the origin of the produce there, look at how the produce is packaged (no stickers on the produce!), or simply ask the vendors. It was clear from the offerings that a few fruits and vegetables in particular were in season, particularly asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb, snow peas, and sweet potatoes. While prices ranged between vendors, they seemed overall cheaper than that of a grocery store like Sobeys — strawberries not so much, as a basket of strawberries ranged from $6 to $10, but a large onion cost about $1.50, asparagus averaged $3 per bunch, and sweet potatoes averaged $3 a basket.
There are also several meat and cheese vendors, with prices for a striploin steak ranging from $12 per steak to $28.99/lb, chicken legs at $5.75/lb, and a slice of brie cheese averaging $5.50. In addition to produce, there were also several stalls selling baked goods, honey, teas, and more.
The Market Building alone offers a wide variety of options including perogies, mini donuts, döner, freshly filled cannoli, Mexican street food including tacos, churros and empanadas, and the famous apple fritters, for which you can always expect a line out the door. However, the crowdedness of Market Building as well as the commonality of many of their offerings (after all, how many of us haven’t had burgers, shawarma, pizza, and empanadas?) made the market feel as if it was missing out on some of its potential, even if on paper, the list of options goes on and on.
Entertainment and knick-knacks
In addition to its produce, St. Jacobs is known for its various boutique stores occupying the second floor of the Market Building, known as the Market Building Mezzanine, as well as the boutique and hobby stores which make up a large chunk of the vendors in Market Tent and Peddler’s Village. The Market Building Mezzanine offers artisanal creations like moccasins, wall hooks, cushions, laser wood engravings, as well as knick-knacks like bath bombs, phone cases, garden decorations, and crystals. Offerings in Market Tent and Peddler’s Village have a similarly wide variety, including kitchen appliances, sports memorabilia, and even vintage magazines and posters (a hidden gem in our opinion!). It’s quite an experience to browse the stalls, and the range of what you can find is arguably one of St. Jacobs’ main pulls.
What makes St. Jacobs stand out is its variety of vendors and special knick-knacks that you can’t find anywhere else, and it doesn’t hurt that the market is open three days a week in the summer. A quick walk around demonstrates not only its variety in commercial offerings, but in the people there — some tourists in search of said knick-knacks, some locals for whom this is clearly a valued community gathering spot. The market is conveniently near other big retailers like Walmart and Dollarama, and a neighbouring antique market also makes for an interesting addition to the day. Such a mix of activities is why St. Jacobs has become a classic Saturday spot for students, and a good spot to have on your radar.
The Kitchener Market, located at 300 King St., is arguably the less well-known of the two. The market is smaller, with a larger community feel, and has less of a focus on tourists. Its proximity to Downtown Kitchener is one advantage that works in its favour, with its closeness to various other spots like restaurants, cafes, and the Kitchener Public Library making up for what, on paper, are fewer options than what is offered at St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market.
The Kitchener Market is open Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. year-round, and is comprised of an outdoor market, where the majority of produce is sold, and a two-story building with additional vendors whose offerings include meat, cheese, baked goods, spirits, and crafts. It’s a good idea to bring cash in order to avoid lines and additional fees at the ATM. The market features an elevator, accessible washrooms, and seating space in the second level.
The Kitchener Market can also be accessed fairly easily by taking the ION, which drops you off at Kitchener Market Station, a three-minute walk from the market. Another viable option is the 7 bus, which drops you off at King and Scott, a minute’s walk away from the market. Cycling to Downtown Kitchener is also much more convenient with the Iron Horse Trail and newly improved bike lanes leading up to the market.
The produce available at the Kitchener Market is a slightly smaller selection, but what should be appreciated is the clarity of their labels and signage. A sign at the front of the market asks patrons to look for one of the signs listed at each stall, which denote the amount of produce grown by the vendor or if they are resellers. Many vendors also have signs clearly denoting the origin of their produce, an additional help if you’re specifically looking for local produce.
Prices at the market occasionally felt slightly higher than those at St. Jacobs, with asparagus averaging $3-4 a bunch, sweet potatoes ranging from $4-6 per basket, and a small wheel of brie going for $10. However, this felt offset by the Kitchener Market student discount, which was a pleasant surprise: at several vendors in the market, providing a valid student ID can get you 10% off your purchase.
Food vendors at Kitchener Market can mainly be found on the upper floor of the main building, with a variety of baked goods available on the first floor. The options are numerically lower than those available at St. Jacobs, though the diversity is clear: El Salvadorian pupusas, Eastern European cabbage rolls, Mexican tamales, and Caribbean patties are all up for grabs. The seating is also very spaced out, giving you space away from the crowds on the lower floor.
Entertainment and knick-knacks
As mentioned previously, Kitchener Market’s focus on produce means there are decidedly less stalls dedicated to non-produce options. However, this is mitigated by the fact that most people at the market are likely there purely to buy produce, and if you are indeed looking for something extra, good news — you’re in the middle of Downtown Kitchener, which contrary to popular belief, does have interesting locations worth checking out, such as AURA-LA Pastries + Provisions, a 15-minute walk from the market.
The relative lack of non-produce options makes for a much more food-focused experience at Kitchener Market. The lower number of vendors also allows for much more breathing space in the upper level of the main building, which you may find more to your liking if you’re one for more open spaces. Prices did feel slightly higher than those at St. Jacobs, but the location and the change of pace it provides, in our opinion, are worth your consideration.