A Socially Anxious Author and a Local Farmers Market

A Story of Unexpected Superfandom

I absolutely love my local Thornton Farmers’ Market.  It’s my Disney World.  I’m not exaggerating. I look forward to it every single week.  I’ve posted about this love on Facebook far too many times, so at the risk of getting a heck of a lot of eye rolls aimed in my direction, I’m going to write a big, long post about it…and then share it on Facebook (MUAHAHAHA!)

Skipping the Obvious Reasons I Love My Farmers’ Market

Ohhhhh this is going to be a long list.  So, what I’ll do is nurture my quirkiness and skip over the really big and important general reasons that I love my farmers’ market, like its small carbon footprint, the ultra-fresh food, the support to local small businesses, and the support to small farmers, growers, producers, and artisans that are an incredible part of any local economy (many of whom are fighting a huge battle to stay in the black as their competition is massive corporations).  Yep, skipping those and many other points. I’ll let this (very interesting and highly recommended) TED Talk cover those subjects for me.

Those points are all very important to me, but I’m trying to get personal here.  So, with that video done, here is why I love my local farmers’ market and can’t wait to get going every week. I’m so excited to go that I’ll even plan what I’ll wear in advance, even though it’s generally a T-shirt and yoga pants. I just like planning for it because it gives me the extra opportunity to think about something I enjoy so much! Yes, I’m a bit over the top, but I’m cool with that, because the farmers’ market makes me so happy!

Why My Farmers’ Market Makes Me Happy

For the first mumbles incoherently years of my life, I didn’t like shopping at local markets.  I have moderate-to-severe (depending on the day, hour, minute) social anxiety.  Like, if I talk to you, I will ruminate about that conversation that night for hours, and then it will return to me on occasion for the rest of my life. Over time, it will warp and distort until my main memory of the brief, pleasant, warm conversation is focused nearly entirely on how offensive and stupid I was. This is very painful and happens for hours or days at a time. If I go somewhere outside my home, I will not sleep well that night, if at all.

Until a handful of years ago, my experience with in-person local markets was comprised nearly entirely of craft shows, trade shows, and large food festivals. Lots of fun, but the sellers are super intense. I don’t blame them. They need to sell! It’s what they’re there for. But all that pressure from someone who just won’t take no for an answer is not only off-putting to me, it’s panic inducing. I will decline purchasing something from someone with that type of selling strategy even if I’d actually wanted one of their items, because my fight-or-flight response is pushing me to flee and never want to return. Aggressive sellers might work on some people, but with me, they’ll guarantee a lost sale.

That’s not what it’s like at a farmers’ market!

Farmers’ markets Are a Safe Space from Aggressive Sales

Ontario Farmers Market

My local Thornton Farmers’ Market is filled to the brim with friendly, welcoming people. They know their stuff, they love their stuff (or have thoroughly convinced me that they do), and they’re people I consider to be my local community.  If I strike up a conversation with them or want to talk about their products, ask a question, or even discuss the weather, they’re on board. But at no point are they pitching a hard-sell in my direction. When I go to the Thornton Farmers’ Market on Fridays, I sleep just fine those nights. That’s saying a lot.

Though I started off just requesting what I wanted from the vendors, thanking them, and slipping quietly away, I’ve now reached the point that I can’t wait to hear the latest about how everyone is doing, what they’re offering this week, and what they’re expecting from upcoming days! This is something I never thought I’d be able to comfortably do, and now it’s something I can’t wait for each week.

Shopping There for the First Time

I visited the Thornton Farmers’ Market for the first time very reluctantly because of my sister (thanks, Laura…with whom I recently published a kids’ book called An Ogre Ate My Sparkles…ahem…what do you mean that was shameful self-promotion?).  Laura was coming to visit but was only eating pasture-raised meat at the time. After looking at the grocery store options, which included organic, but not grass fed and pasture raised, I had to google a local option. 

My googling led me to discover Stone Horse Farm. Turned out that Stone Horse Farm sold their local, pasture raised, grass fed (as much as pork can be, because they’re not cows – they also get buttermilk, barley, and lots of other non-corn, non-GMO veggies, and local foods) pork products at a local farmers’ market.  My parents already shopped there some weeks, so it was time to bite the bullet and go along (thanks, Mom and Dad!).

Stone Horse Farm Hotdogs

That first visit likely turned me into the only person on the planet who has ever become a farmers’ market superfan because of a packet of hot dogs.  To be frank (har har har…sorry, I’ve spent a lot of time with my Dad lately, and his jokes rub off), my first thought was that those hot dogs were freakin’ expensive (it was a different time, when there were still cheap foods available).  I bought them anyway, because it was something I knew how to cook and that my sister would eat. 

I should also mention that I was nearly a vegetarian* at the time, because it was my firm belief – based on mumbles incoherently years of indigestion – that meats in any quantity made me sick. Very sick. Ew.

What I discovered though, was that those hot dogs didn’t upset my stomach at all, that they were so good that I’d never be able to return to the ones sold at the grocery store** again, and that shopping at a farmers’ market is really, really fun and low-pressure.  So…I went back. I returned most weeks for the rest of the season. At that time, I was still polite and formal in my shopping style, but I was going, and that was the point.

When 2020 Happened

Soooo, yeah, March 2020 happened.  If you need to know what I mean by that, please consult virtually any link on the World Wide Web.

Thornton Farmers Market Community

The Thornton Farmers’ Market wasn’t opened yet, because winter. That said, the grocery store experience had gone from “generally unpleasant” for socially anxious me, to a much more unpleasant “oh my goodness, please don’t make me go there, I’m begging you not to make me go there, the lines are insane, there’s nothing on the shelves, and people have lost their minds.” Yep, I think that about describes it.

Then, there it was: a Facebook post. My eyes just filled with tears from the memory of the relief and hope it brought me. Yes, I cry that easily, but oh my gosh, everything was so scary and confusing, and my anxiety was in a very, very bad place.

Farm-to-Family

Thank everything in the universe I was following Stone Horse Farm for owner Lisa Peterson’s enchanting pig- and goat-related Facebook posts, because it meant that I spotted a post announcing that a project the local farmers and growers had been tinkering with was opening. It was possible to order what we wanted from them online and pick it up in person, curbside. On March 16, 2020, it got its own official Facebook page and has been a thing ever since. 

Farm-to-Family Local Fare Barrie

Open year-round and now called Farm-to-Family – Local Fare Barrie, the catalog opens every Monday at about noon, and shoppers like me have until Thursday at 8pm to order from a ton of different local growers, producers, farmers, bakers, artisans, and so on. I haven’t missed a single one since it opened. Even if I couldn’t be there to pick it up myself, I’ve still ordered from this incredible option and someone else (thanks, Mom and Dad!) has picked it up on my behalf.

Word about this group spread like wildfire. Suddenly, overpriced ordering for delivery or curbside pickup from grocery stores (only to find out that lots was sold out by pickup time) wasn’t our only option.  Fresh and local was back, and it was fun.  Okay, at the start, the lines for pickup were loooong, but everyone was happy and friendly, and it was still a bajillion times better than being in a grocery store!

Canadian Farmers Market Statistics

I loved the routine and controlled social experience of the Farm-to-Family pickups. I carpooled with my mom, and we picked up our orders as well as those of other families who live near us. There are still four households in any typical order we make (including my best friend and co-author of the Perspective series, Amanda Giasson. Yeah, more shameful self-promotion. In for a penny…).

Over time, I got to know the people working and volunteering to help pack the boxes and carry them out to the cars and became increasingly comfortable with them. In fact, my birthday fell on a Saturday that year, and they all sang to me as the cars were loaded up with yummies. It was a pretty good feeling in a year when no one had much of a birthday celebration!

Springtime and the Return of the Farmers’ Market, My Community

Then came May, and the Thornton Farmers’ Market returned. Farm-to-Family continued – as did my loyalty to shopping there – but the farmers’ market offered the opportunity to shop in-person, talk to the people who were behind my Farm-to-Family orders, and pick up some goodies from other local sellers too. So, I shopped in both places.

Canadian Farmers Facts

After everything that had happened, everyone felt familiar. It was easier to talk, and it was special to be able to shop and interact while feeling safe and comfortable. These weren’t just vendors anymore. They’d become my community, many of whom I now know by name *** and some of whom I consider to be friends.  

Oh, and remember those “expensive” hot dogs from a few years ago? Yeah, turns out that local farmers’ markets don’t increase their prices at nearly the rate that grocery stores seem to. All those premium products I used to be paying more for are now pretty much at par with grocery stores, so now I’m getting all the benefits and freshness without forking out any more money than I would at my local grocery store. Score!

Farmers Market Statistics Canada

If I’d wanted to support those local farmers before, I certainly do now.  These are the people who got me through it all.  They got hundreds (thousands?) of us through it all.  Now, I’m glad to continue to support them even though stores have fully opened up again. Even though I have shopping options again, I don’t want to go backward. I love what the farmers’ market stands for – both the TED Talk video points and for my own mental health, nutrition, and sense of community. 

My values have changed. In my opinion, it’s been for the better. I know where I want my time and money to go. I know who I want to support, and who supported me when things got awful.

Your Turn

I can only recommend – and I’ll try not to be preachy about it at this point – that if you’ve never popped in at your local farmers’ market, please give it a try. At your own pace, find a grower who gives you a good vibe. Ask a question about their farm, their food, or how to store or prepare what they’re selling. They’ll have an answer, and you’ll already have taken your first step to superfandom like me.

Buy something. Enjoy it. Feel good.

Get to Know the Thornton Farmer’s Market

If you happen to live in the Thornton, Ontario area, or if you drive right past it on your way to cottage country on Fridays, I highly recommend stopping in. It is extremely conveniently located on the corner of Highway 27 and Innisfil Beach Road (the latter of which has a HWY 400 exit/entrance). It’s in the grassy area next to the plaza with the gas station and Tim Hortons in it, with lots of space and free parking available.

Here are just a few of the vendors I recommend that you visit.

Stone Horse Farm

Stone Horse Farm - Lisa - Thornton Farmers' Market

I personally recommend the:

  • Smoked cheddar sausages
  • Pork loin chops
  • Pork breakfast patties (they make amazing burgers too!)
  • Deli ham (cheaper per pound than discount grocery stores and so much better!)
  • Hot dogs (read massive blog above…)

EFT Farms

EFT Farms - Emilio -  - Thornton Farmers' Market

I personally recommend the:

  • Veggies from his farm that are in season (including peas, beans)
  • Fruits from his farm when they’re in season (particularly apples and strawberries)
  • Pumpkins (when pumpkin time comes ‘round)

Innisfil Creek Honey

Innisfil Creek Honey - Amanda - Thornton Farmers' Market

I personally recommend the:

  • Wildflower honey
  • Hot honey mustard
  • Every single one of the soaps (the lavender honey one is great before bed and the rosemary mint honey one is refreshing in the summertime)
  • The Healing Salve (it fixes everything from bug bites to razor burn)

My Grandma’s Farm

My Grandma's Farm - Stephanie -Thornton Farmers' Market

I personally recommend the:

  • Tea biscuits (can’t decide if the cheese or cranberry ones are my favourites)
  • Christmas Jam (I give this to everyone at Christmastime…including me)
  • Freshly dried herbs

Thorganic Farms

Thorganic Farms - Victoria  - Thornton Farmers' Market

I personally recommend the:

  • Ground beef
  • Minute steaks
  • Stewing beef

Kabzza

Kabzza - Raman Gill  - Thornton Farmers' Market
Kabzza

I personally recommend the:

  • Fudge (can’t decide if the chocolate or buttered rum is my favourite)
  • Homemade samosas (I’m drooling, I just know it)
  • Butter chicken with rice and naan

Terry’s Unique Hot Sauce

Terry's Unique Hot Sauce - Karen - Thornton Farmers' Market

I personally recommend the:

  • Terry’s Original Unique Hot Sauce (for all your everyday hot sauce needs)
  • Terry’s Don’t Fear the Reaper Unique Hot Sauce (for all your hot sauce loving friends)
  • Terry’s Smokin’ Unique Hot Sauce (for my burrito bowl recipe)

Janita’s Jewellery

Janita's Handmade Gemstone Jewellery - Thornton Farmers' Market

I personally recommend the:

  • Tree of life necklaces (handmade and so gorgeous!)

PJ Meats

PJ Meats - Thornton Farmers' Market

I personally recommend the:

  • Smoked dog bones for your furry friend!

Eat the Cake

Eat the Cake - Rachel - Thornton Farmers' Market

I personally recommend the:

  • Carrot cake (am I drooling again?)

Connie’s Kitchen and Fresh Produce

Connie's Kitchen & Fresh Produce

I personally recommend the:

  • Homemade granola (it looks like a small container, but it lasts me all week!)
  • Fudge cookies

Franca’s Home Bake Goods

Franca's Home Bake Goods - Thornton Farmers' Market

I personally recommend the:

  • Ginger cookies
  • Brownies

Barnstormers Brewing

Barnstormers Brewing - Thornton Farmers' Market

I personally recommend the:

  • 400 Blonde Ale (when it’s a really hot summer day)
  • Flight Delay IPA (for relaxing on all the rest of the summer days)

S&R Microgreens

(They weren’t there on the day I took the pictures)

I personally recommend the:

  • Pea shoots
  • Dill microgreens
  • Beet microgreens

Vendors that also pop in to the Thornton Farmers’ Market on occasion include R Family Farm (don’t miss their bajillions of types of squash when they’re there during the fall), Pillitteri Estates Winery, East End Kitchen, and Lost Meadow Meadery, among others.

Don’t forget to tell everyone that Julie sent you, 😉 and if you see me there, be sure to give me a wave!

**************

* I’m not a nearly vegetarian anymore. I’m not a huge meat eater, but I do eat pasture-raised pork, beef, and chicken regularly – at least a few times per week – and feel a lot better now than I used to. I have more energy and rarely feel faint anymore.

** I don’t hate grocery stores.

*** I don’t know all their names because I find asking for names to be very awkward and anxiety-inducing (which is silly, but there you have it), so I tend to pick up people’s names when someone else has mentioned them. It’s not ideal…clearly…Okay, I promise I’ll work on it.

Published by Julie B Campbell

Julie B. Campbell is a Canadian fiction author and co-author (with Amanda Giasson) of the Perspective series books ("Love at First Plight", "Second Wind", "Third Time's a Charmer", and "So On and So Fourth"). Julie has also written children's books such as "The Elephant-Wolf" and "Finding Manda's Sunshine", as well as her most recent kids' title "An Ogre Ate My Sparkles!". She is a rosacea blogger and YouTuber under the name Rosy JulieBC.

5 thoughts on “A Socially Anxious Author and a Local Farmers Market

  1. Because Lisa is my friend, and I regularly shop with her or Farm to Family as well, I was led to this blog post by her sharing it on facebook. I can only agree that her organizing that co-op has been a life-saver for me as well! I hate grocery shopping, and with all the covid restrictions and being hassled about not wearing a mask (I am medically unable to wear one, but would have refused anyway), being able to go to the farm to get my meat and vegetables was fantastic. I haven’t been to the Thornton farmer’s market, because we have one here in Alliston. But I agree that farmer’s markets are great!
    I also continue buying ALL my meat from either Farm to Family, or directly from Stone Horse Farm, or from Integrated Farms (who also are part of the co-op, but will deliver twice a month over a wide area, if you order enough).

    Liked by 1 person

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