St. Jacobs Farmers' Market

A long building with light blue-grey wood and a slanted brown shingle roof stretches from the right of the photograph into the background near the left edge. Above it is a clear blue sky. A tier of shingles protrudes from the bottom of the second level to create a covered porch surrounding the building, and is supported by timber columns on which are hung flower pots. At the bottom right is an area with tables, at which are seated some diners. Hundreds of people are walking on the paved are beside the building and on the covered porch.
The primary building of the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market as photographed in 2003. It was destroyed by fire in 2013.

St. Jacobs Farmers' Market is a farmers' market and flea market in St. Jacobs, Ontario, Canada. It is located to the south of King Street North, to the east of Weber Street North, and to the west of the railway tracks. It is the largest year-round farmer's market in Canada,[1] and is a popular destination for residents of the town and nearby communities, as well as tourists from Canada, the United States, and Europe.[2][3] It draws about 1 million visitors annually.[4]

It was established in April 1975. The main building of the market was destroyed by a fire on 2 September 2013. The market re-opened on 11 June 2015 in a restored and expanded $5 million facility.[4]


In the lower portion of the photograph is a light-coloured wooden cabinet with closed doors, above which are three levels of shelving fully stacked with glass jars containing preserves, jams, and pickled foods. Labels are affixed to the front of each wooden shelf below the stacked jars. At the top of the photograph are some of the timber support beams of the structure.
A vendor's stall at the main building of the farmer's market in 2011.

The market was established in April 1975 by Jim Wideman and seven other individuals, who merged a three-owner stockyard based in Waterloo with a five-owner stockyard based in Kitchener.[3] It was originally "just tents outside on the pavement".[3] In 1986, a two-storey 24,000-square-foot (2,200 m2) heavy timber building was constructed on the site,[5][3] the frame of which used 12"x12" Douglas fir beams from British Columbia.[1]

The market consists of the Peddler's Village building for the flea market and some food vendors, buildings each housing a single retailer, and a lot in which up to 150 vendors set up an outdoor shop from spring to autumn.

The two-storey food building, owned by Mercedes Corporation[6] since the 1990s, was the central building of the market in which operated 68 vendors[7] before its destruction by fire. On the lower level were food vendors, and on the upper level were located home decoration and crafts vendors.[3]

The site also has a livestock barn and petting barn.[1]


Aftermath of the fire that destroyed the main building

The main building of the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market was destroyed by a fire on the morning of 2 September 2013.[8] Forty-five firefighters from four stations were required to extinguish the fire.[8] The fire did not harm any people, or the livestock in a nearby building.[2] The fire caused about $2 million of damage to the building.[9] A fire alarm system had been installed in the building in early 2013, and a fire sprinkler system had been planned for installation.[2] Woolwich Fire Department chief Rick Pedersen said a fire sprinkler system could have prevented the building's destruction or minimized damage caused by the fire.[6]

The fire did not affect the other buildings on the site,[8] as the wind "was blowing the flames away from the surrounding buildings on the property".[2]

Todd Cowan, the mayor of the township of Woolwich in which St. Jacobs is located, stated that the township would "fast-track the building site plans and the building permits" to rebuild the main building of the market.[8] He also stated that the fire would have a "huge" economic impact on the community, and some vendors stated they would have to lay off employees as a result.[2]

The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation established the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market Vendor Relief Fund[10] in order to raise funds "to help affected vendors offset uninsured losses", predicted to be about $750,000.[11] This includes the purchase of replacement capital goods, and assisting laid off employees.[12]

Several of the intact wood beams were salvaged from the site as mementos by Mercedes Corporation "just to remember the building".[13] Some of the salvaged wood was purchased by an artist in Guelph, who used it to create furniture and other goods.[14]


A temporary structure was erected on the site beginning in mid-October 2013.[15] Metal legs were placed along the perimeter of the concrete foundation, an engineered steel roof frame was installed by crane, and a weatherproof textile cover stretched over it.[11][5][15] The 15,600 square feet (1,450 m2) dome-shaped structure was built on the same foundation as the original structure and opened on 12 December 2013.[16][17] Of the 60 vendors from the original building, 49 returned to the temporary structure; displaced food vendors moved into the Pedlar's Village.[11][17]

Construction of a permanent 34,000 square feet (3,200 m2) structure to replace the destroyed building was completed in 2015.[4] The new building houses a peak of 400 vendors during high season.[4]


A trolley bus and two horses stationed in front of and obscuring the Quilted Heirlooms store.

The St. Jacobs Horse Drawn Tours operates several horse-drawn trolley tours departing from the log cabin at the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market. The Mennonite Farm Tours, which operates from mid April to the end of October, is a seventy-five-minute tour that includes an Old Order Mennonite farm, during which tourists are taught about Mennonite culture.[18] The Maple Sugar Bush Tours operates from the beginning of March to mid April, taking visitors to a nearby sugar bush to learn about maple syrup production.[19]

Waterloo Central Railway operates a seasonal steam train tour from Waterloo to the village of St. Jacobs and the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market. Trains run on Saturdays from March to October, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a shorter duration.[20] The platform is at the eastern end of the site.

A 24 km on-road cycling tour operated by the Woolwich Cycling Group begins at the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market and loops around farms and the village of St. Jacobs, then returns to the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market.[21]


In the 1990s, the township of Woolwich received an application from the Future Group[22] for the development of a power centre adjacent to the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market, at which would be based a Walmart, other retailers, and office space.[23] The development was supported by the township of Woolwich council,[24] and opposed by several citizen's groups and other parties, including Concerned Citizens of Woolwich Township, the city of Waterloo, the Waterloo Uptown Business Improvement Area, Hudson's Bay Company, and the residential development firm First Gulf Developments.[25] The development was approved by Woolwich council on 23 September 1997.[26]

An open house viewing of the plans and subsequent public discussion was held in St. James Lutheran Church in Elmira in January 2002. The opposing groups appealed the development at the Ontario Municipal Board in 2002, which rendered a decision in 2003 to allow construction of the power centre.[25] Construction began in 2008.[27]

The city of Waterloo receives $340,000 annually from the power centre to compensate it for the power centre's "negative impacts on uptown Waterloo".[26]



See also

Media related to St. Jacobs Farmers' Market at Wikimedia Commons

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