Established by royal proclamation in June of 1750, the Halifax Farmers Market once sold only the basics: meat and produce sourced locally or from the Annapolis Valley. Now the oldest continuously operating farmers market in North America offers a vast range of goods, and a few services, and is open seven days a week.
Its now-permanent home on the Halifax waterfront, encompassing Piers 19 to 23 (which includes the famous Pier 21 Canadian Museum of Immigration), is essentially a conglomeration of what Nova Scotia’s farms, food providers, and artisans have to offer, in one location. These buildings are situated toward the southern end of the Halifax waterfront, and are easy to find. Face the harbour and turn right!
Now known as the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market, it is visited and shopped by Halifax residents, visitors from the south shore and the Annapolis Valley (many vendors come from the Valley), and cruise ship passengers; they dock very close by and are thrilled by the plethora of local fine foods, wines, beers, cider and hard liquors sold at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market.
What is on Tap at the Halifax Farmers Market?
- Liquid, literally, is on tap, with many Valley wineries present, including Benjamin Bridge, Avondale Sky, and Blomidon Estate. Beer abounds; numerous local breweries are situated close to here, with Garrison right on the premises. Distilleries, the likes of Ironworks (Lunenburg), and Glenora (Cape Breton), also have booths at the Halifax Market.
- International foods, already prepared, can be had from outlets such as Mary’s African Cuisine, Amin’s Indian Food and Stella’s Antiguan Cuisine. It’s a global feast. Many people who shop the Halifax Seaport Market wait to enjoy breakfast until they get there; the selection is extraordinary.
What Else Can You Buy at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market?
You really must go there to appreciate the full extent of the variety among the 250 vendors, but here are a few of the goods available:
- original art, greeting cards, jewellery, clothing
- coffees, teas, growing seeds, mushrooms, nuts
- seafood, of course!
- soap, candy, dog and cat treats (if you’re a dog person, don’t miss Grinners Dog Treats!), preserves, pizza
- various farm markets hailing from the Annapolis Valley, such as Noggins Corner Farm Market in Greenwich
Produce, naturally, is best in peak season, but savvy shoppers buy what is seasonal, and freeze or can it right away for use year-round. And what about price? Buying directly from the producers or growers generally results in better prices. Growers don’t need the middleman to sell their produce, and the cost of a booth is less than a store, or paying for shelf space in a major supermarket chain; the savings are passed on. Of course, specialty goods and original art, as anywhere, may carry a higher price tag. Overall, foodies get their bargains at Halifax Seaport Farmers Market every day (restaurant chefs shop there; shouldn’t you?).
There are some unusual vendors, too. For example, the Seafoam Lavender Company sells all-natural, lavender-based products for culinary, household and skin care use. Can you imagine what their fields look like? Their booth is awash in purple and fragrance.
The Tangled Garden (featured a few years ago in Martha Stewart Living magazine!) is represented at the Halifax Farmers Market. They roll in from their 5-acre estate in Grand Pre, near Wolfville, in the Annapolis Valley, with a selection of high-quality goods made from their own gardens: herbal jellies, fruit jams, fruit liqueurs, chutneys and flavoured vinegars.
One of the favourite vendors is the indulgent Gourmandises Avenue Chocolaterie. Run by Jean-Pierre Gallois and his wife, Yseult, this is the real deal: France in Halifax. Jean-Pierre learned to be a pastry chef when he was a 15-year-old in France, and his goodies are magnifique! Sumptuous and so pretty, too. The company creates beautiful hand-made chocolates, perfect for souvenirs of Nova Scotia, in shapes such as seashells, lobsters and fish. The dessert pastries, like perfect lemon tarts and Chocolate Opera, are to die for. Don’t miss their booth! Shoppers can often be seen munching a fresh, warm choquette. (Gourmandises Avenue also has a presence at the Saturday Wolfville Farmers Market each week.)
One of the upticks to the harbour-hugging layout of downtown Halifax is the close proximity of city attractions, dining, shopping, business services, parks and modes of transportation. The Halifax Seaport Farmers Market is part of that hub, highly accessible, and makes for a fine day out experiencing Halifax for locals and tourists alike.
When to Visit the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market
Saturday is the big day at the Halifax Farmers Market, but if you prefer to shop when crowd levels are lower, early on weekday mornings (it opens at 10:00 during the week, 7:00 Saturdays, and 9:00 Sundays) are best. Stock is high, which is not always the case toward the end of the business day.
What the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market does is facilitate. Besides its event venues, and community workshops (featuring classes on sustainable and local eating, among other things), it enables locals, tourists and visitors to source everything they need in one place. Well, maybe not furniture, but then again, there are wood-workers that sell, yes, furniture at the Market as well as long-grain cutting boards and bowls! By assembling all sorts of vendors in one place, it’s easy for shoppers to get what they want in a lively atmosphere. They socialize, eat and drink, stroll and shop in a setting that feels centuries old, a more civilized way to buy what they need. Bon appetit!