Miranda Batterink 

Silhouette Staff

Say what you will about Jackson Square. The place might be a black hole of public arrests, cheap trinkets and illicit drug deals.

But, despite its loitering scene and questionable patrons, it can’t be denied that the mall plays host to one hell of a farmer’s market.

Newly renovated (its current location just opened earlier this year), the Hamilton Farmer’s Market isn’t only not sketchy, it’s actually become one of the most expansive produce markets in Ontario.

An impressive mecca of fresh meat, eggs, cheese and produce that covers the entire colour spectrum, it has emerged into a glossy-floored, open-concept,window-filled beacon of light in the city-block of dodginess that is Jackson Square.

The Farmer’s Market originally started in 1837, making it older than the city of Hamilton itself. In 1980 it moved into its old location in Jackson Square, and has since expanded to include nearly 70 vendors.

The merchants are local to Hamilton or from the Niagara region, which means that when you buy fresh produce, it’s just that – fresh. It hasn’t been shipped in from Morocco or flown in from Fiji.

Longing gazes at overpriced grocery store pints of wild blueberries and fresh peaches can be a thing of the past.

For anyone fearing the onset of scurvy in their student-budgeted, KD-based diet, the Farmer’s Market has some of the cheapest fresh produce in Hamilton, with prices often at less than half of what you could expect in a supermarket.

Beyond staple items, the market also offers everything from mittens to cactus plants to hot apple cider.

For anyone looking for authentic and quality ethnic food, flavours or spices, there are a number of global vendors as well.

Imported foods – Columbian coffee, Mexican empanadas, Polish pastries and British baked goods – are abundant.

Pick up an item you’ve never heard of or buy some ingredients in preparation of some more adventurous cooking at home.

The Farmer’s Market hosts lots of hot food vendors and tables to sit at as well, which makes it a surprisingly good (and cheap!) lunch or coffee break destination. The best part? You could eat there every market day of the year and never try the same dish twice.

Wandering through towering aisles of the grocery store trying to decide between Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima isn’t necessarily a good time.

But shopping at the market is actually fun.

For more vendors, non-food options and live demonstrations head there on a Saturday, or enjoy quieter and more relaxed shopping throughout the week.

On any day, throw free samples and prime people-watching into the mix and you’ve got no reason not to take the short bus trip downtown.

Skip the Fortinos produce aisle and head to the Farmer’s Market to eat healthily, shop locally, and save money.

Win, win, win. Just try not to linger in Jackson Square on your way out.

The market is open Tuesdays  and Thursdays (7 a.m to 6 p.m.), Fridays (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Saturdays (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.), accessible from York Boulevard or through Jackson Square and the Hamilton City Centre.

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