Sunday, June 21, 2020

“Farmers Market – A Wistful Summer Review” by Colleen Mitchell Robinson

I recently moved to Collingwood and took a part-time job at a local winery.  One of my duties was to work the booth at the local Farmers Market.  Early Saturday morning, I arrived and prepared for the day with my young hipster colleague.  As I watched, unique worlds hatched in stalls all around me.  I decided that my coffee break would be a perfect time to explore.

Shoppers started arriving by eight am, and our booth was surprisingly popular.  Who knew so many people enjoyed sampling fermented fruits so early in the day? Apparently there is a pent-up demand for stiff morning refreshment among the otherwise innocent looking seniors and urban transplants. Between free samples and cash sales, our booth rivalled an LCBO on the Friday before a long weekend.

Perhaps a Farmers Market was going to be more fun than I thought.

When mid-morning arrived, it was time for my break and a chance to scope out the competition.

Around the corner was an artist who carved owls out of driftwood.  I stared at the tiny wooden creatures and was amazed at the humour in the hollow eyes and the sense of motion in the wooden wings. Looking up, I was slightly taken aback to encounter the artist, who bore an uncanny resemblance to the creatures he carved. With his tiny round glasses perched on the end of his nose, I felt sure he was going to rotate his head or let out an avian hoot.

Continuing down the now crowded tarmac, I stopped in front of a large booth containing two large, smoking oil drums that looked ready to explode. Judging by the smell and the growing line, I could see that market-goers loved their bacon Canadian-style, barbecued and served on a bun.  

As I thought about treating myself to a mid-morning snack, I stopped in my tracks.  Behind the drums stood my family doctor, cutting up buns with the precision of a well-trained surgeon. I recalled a recent visit to his office, where during a particularly delicate part of the examination, he had mentioned his summer job at the back bacon stall.  Feeling rather awkward, and hoping that he wouldn’t spot me in the crowd, I quickly moved along.

Downtown Collingwood
Turning the next corner, I was enveloped in a rainbow of brightly coloured sundresses billowing in the morning air.  Pink, orange, and scarlet fabrics conjured a vision of a breath-taking sunset, or a sea of summer sails on a breezy bay.  Tie-dyed scarves snaked around metal poles, taking me back to a summer of tight jeans and ice cream on the beach.  I decided I would come back at the end of the day to buy one, just to feel young again.   

Circling back, I encountered a toy vendor.  More of a summer elf than a salesman, he was dressed in lederhosen, and sported a dark green cap with a large feather.  A huge wooden rain barrel squatted at the front of his stall. Its top served as a pen for mechanical trucks that whirred as they travelled, turning over and righting themselves before continuing on their endless loops. At the back sat a large aquatic tank that contained toy motor boats of various shapes and sizes, whizzing around at considerable speed. 

Just as I was just ready to leave, a clown-covered jack-in-the-box popped open and let out an unearthly cackle. I was so startled that I jumped backward into a pile of hula hoops, sending the neon circles scattering across the walkway.  I scrambled to help Lederhosen man retrieve them.  Judging by his scathing glare, it seemed likely I would end up on Santa’s naughty list this year.

With my home base now in sight, I still had to transverse the malodorous Goat Yoga booth. I had done yoga in a studio with a mat and Zen music, but never with a goat. 

Facing me were two white kids hovering on a patch of straw in the middle of a white picket fence enclosure. The spandex-clad woman in the booth was talking to the goats, in an attempt to bring calm and stop the loud bleating. Clearly they had no intention of assuming a lotus pose or attempting a cat stretch. Before I could ask about the connection between a transcendental discipline and Old MacDonald’s farm, she grabbed my arm and pulled me into a conspiratorial pose.

“You’re the wine lady, right? You’ve got to cover for me. My ex just came into the market and I don’t want him to see me.”

You should have left the goats at home if you wanted anonymity, I thought. 

“He’s the butter man on the other side of your booth.  If he asks, don’t let on you know me.”

I don’t know you, I thought.

Glancing across the wine bottles, I saw a tall, rangy man in overalls, wearing a trucking cap with a piece of hay sticking out one side.  He was slicing butter onto slabs of bread and doling them out to samplers overflowing from my booth.  As he raked in ten dollar bills people offered in exchange for his buttery sticks, he didn’t seem to notice yoga lady or her bleating kids,

“Sure, no problem” I replied. Goat yoga woman looked relieved.

Back safely among my wares, I reflected on my inaugural trek.  It had not been the dull array of crocheted toilet paper covers I thought I would encounter.  In fact, it was full of wine, food, art, toys, memories, and a good old-fashioned dose of melodrama.  What better way to fill a Saturday morning? 

If you get a chance to visit a local Farmers Market this summer, I highly recommend it.  It will likely be anything but dull.

Colleen Mitchell Robinson is exploring creativity in her new hometown of Collingwood, along with kayaking, vegetarian cooking, and an occasional glass of wine by the bay.

Note: I’m offering a “How to Write Great Dialogue” workshop on Aug 15 in Collingwood. See here. ~Brian


See Brian Henry's full schedule hereincluding writing workshops, weekly online writing classes, and weekend retreats in Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.


  1. This was such a great story! I used to be a clerk for the Farmer's Market, as well as a vendor. The community drama and interpersonal stories are a thing! Loved the humour and how you captured the simple joy of the market.

  2. I loved this! Your vivid descriptions made me feel as though I was strolling along with you. Oh the simple joys of browsing that we took for granted! Appreciated the humour too ;)