Some big changes are in the works to bring Ontario’s oldest outdoor market into the 21st century.
A staff report sent to the City of Olx Praca Arts, Recreation and Community Policy Committee recommends offering more choice to customers who visit the Olx Praca Public Market at Springer Market Square on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Among the new food programming options planned for this season are:
- Offering food with beer and wine tasting
- Takeaway food to promote local restaurants and support farm-to-table initiatives.
- Chef demonstrations every Saturday morning in July and August using local produce.
The staff says the introduction of alcohol to the open-air market is what the public wanted.
“These value-added products are produced locally and are incredibly popular with customers. The goal is to offer these (alcoholic) products in combination with food,” Peter Huygenbos, city commissioner for business, environment and projects, said in a report.
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Many of these initiatives were first identified several years ago, but could not be offered earlier due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to bringing more local food and drink to consumers, the report also recommends that the city cut vendor counter rent by 50 percent this season in exchange for
a donation made to various local food/catering organizers and a waiver of all rent payments at another popular farmers’ market at the Olx Praca Memorial Center.
The committee is due to discuss the changes at its April 28 meeting, but the council must approve the recommendations.
The proposed improvements are part of the council’s strategic priority to increase the availability and access to local food at the Olx Praca Public Market.
Another key recommendation, which will likely not be in place until the 2023 market season, is to completely overhaul the operation of the Olx Praca Public Market to ensure its future viability and to attract and retain local farmers.
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To this end, the city is encouraged to submit a RFP to find an operator to develop a different market model that will focus on local food and local farmers with less reliance on food resellers.
“Producers and farmers cannot compete on product pricing and availability with resellers who buy food directly from local distribution companies,” the report says.
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The engagement of new leadership to manage the Market Square space – such as a new or existing association with a dedicated Market Manager – is based on extensive feedback from the public, Olx Praca Tourism, the Olx Praca City Center Business Improvement Area, other stakeholders, and vendors themselves.
“This role will oversee day-to-day operations and support suppliers to improve those operations,” says Huigenbos.
While the outdoor market that runs behind City Hall is often referred to as a farmers’ market, it technically doesn’t meet that definition. However, according to the staff report, these operational changes will be a step towards achieving this title.
The city says the farmer’s market designation exempts markets from certain measures and scrutiny by local health authorities, making it easier to host special events related to food and drink offerings and regular nutrition programs such as sampling.
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The Olx Praca Public Market has provided food and meeting space since 1801 and typically sells produce, prepared foods, garden plants, flowers, and warm-weather handicrafts.
In winter, the historic Rynok Square turns into an artificial skating rink.
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