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Re-imagining Guelph’s Farmers’ Market space to engage the community

When you envision a weekly farmers’ market, you probably expect several booths of farm-fresh produce, preserves and local arts and crafts. It’s a community space where neighbours meet and relationships grow. But what happens in that location the rest of the week? Could it be used to create new community connections and opportunities?

Nestled in downtown Guelph behind City Hall and boasting a long history as a former horse stable, the Guelph Farmers’ Market building, an 11,100 square foot (sq. ft.) facility with an additional 20,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space, is being reimaged to better support local food and social entrepreneurs in new and innovative ways.

Through a collaborative process and formalized community benefit agreement with the City of Guelph, the Farmers’ Market building recently came under the oversight of 10C Shared Space (located at 42 Carden Street), a not-for-profit social enterprise positioned as “the hub for community changemakers in Guelph.”

Leanne McGray, Farmers’ Market lead, says it’s unique to have a not-forprofit running a farmers’ market with an overarching goal of creating opportunities for people to connect. The market’s downtown location is strategic and easily accessible by all modes of transportation, primarily serving residents that live within a thirty-minute radius, along with tourists exploring the downtown.

The space will be put to good use throughout the fall and upcoming holiday season. A new weekly Thursday 4-7 p.m. offering has added another day of food related activity, adding to the main Saturday morning market. Extended programming planned for the fall includes vintage clothing and antique markets, book fairs, student events, gardening workshops and weekly evening gift-focused markets in December.

Thanks to the vision and coordination from 10C and nearly $1 million in capital funding from partners such as FedDev Ontario and the City of Guelph, the infrastructure in the Farmers’ Market building is being updated. Building changes will support 10C’s goals to increase community uses for workshops, events and activities. Adapting the space to serve several functions involves major renovations that will be ongoing into 2023.

“Many heavy built-in elements and tables down the center of the market were removed and replaced with portable equipment. People with strollers and mobility aids can now more easily navigate the space,” explains McGray.

With a focus on increasing accessibility, a new double door is planned for the front of the building, along with genderneutral washrooms. Other changes include creating a commercial kitchen for local entrepreneurs to access to create their food products which can then be sold at the market.

“There are opportunities for people to start their business here and help provide them with the supports to get to a bricks-and-mortar location,” says McGray. “Anytime we can be part of that, we consider it a success.”