Its history is long and contentious, as all rich histories tend to be, but today the Halifax Farmers’ Market, the oldest continuously run market in North America, counts among the most innovative.
Established in 1750 by Royal Proclamation, for its first fifty years it sold livestock and produce from Acadian farms in the Annapolis Valley. Over its 260-some years the market has seen fourteen homes. It has also endured much spirited deliberation about its future, its place, its controllers, its modernization, its opening hours, indeed whether it even mattered during a time of intense “urban renewal”.
Concerned with its future, and wanting to wrestle its way out of government control, a plucky group of vendors, some of whom had family roots at the Halifax Market for more than a century, established a cooperative and set up shop in the historic and labyrinthine Keith Hall Brewery Building complex on Hollis Street.
Today, that market venue coexists, albeit in diminished form, with a brand spanking new one, just down the street, called the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. It opened in the summer of 2010 on the renovated Harbour Pier 20, all 45,000 square feet of it a model of sustainable design. Powered with solar and wind energy, and with striking windows that bring the Halifax harbour right into the light-drenched space, it boasts wide aisles filled with goodies from sausages to slippers, jam to jewelry, local fish, artisanal cheese and charcuterie, exquisite pastries and all manner of fresh Nova Scotia produce.