An afternoon in the Glebe

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The free soup by Clover Food and Drink was even better than mother’s. Sorry Mom.

by Liam Harrap

When I told a friend I was living near the Glebe, a neighbourhood just south of downtown in Ottawa, he gave me a saddened look.

“It’s a ritzy neighbourhood,” he said. “Bland; full of mothers and baby strollers. They’ll run you off the sidewalk. Wear a helmet.” I biked to the Glebe one Sunday, wearing my helmet and expecting the worst.

I went to the farmer’s market at Lansdowne. It’s one of the largest in Ottawa, with 80 – 100 vendors. Impressively, all the sellers are from within 100 km of Ottawa. The market also invests within itself, requiring food vendors that sell pre-made foods, like muffins and cupcakes, to include at least 15 per cent of ingredients in their products from other vendors. The survival of one becomes interwoven with another.

I arrived around noon and the market was bustling crowds at stalls of vegetables, fruits and crafts. I soon realized this wasn’t like the I-went-to-buy-a-cabbage-and-now-I-have-no-money markets in Vancouver. I could actually afford the stuff and loaded up on honey, tomatoes, bread and strawberry wine, all for under $35. That would have cost around $50 in Vancouver.

“It’s a great neighbourhood,” said Robert Hupe, one of the owners of Bryson Farms, which specializes in heirloom vegetables and has been selling at this market for 15 years. “You can tell if a tomato is ripe by its touch, not its colour. When it’s ready, it will be softer. You’ll only be confused if you go by the colour, since they come in a variety,” he instructed a potential buyer.

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At the Lansdowne Farmers’ Market there certainly wasn’t a lack of choice
in the tomato department. Photos: Liam Harrap

After leaving his stall, I realized what set this neighbourhood apart – touch. Vendors wanted to shake my hand, talk to me and ask how I got to Ottawa. I was even offered an assignment at the local community paper (hem hem). People went out of their way to meet me, even though it was supposed to be me going out of my way to meet them.

For me, this is new as I recently graduated from the University of British Columbia, and while Vancouver is a beautiful city, it isn’t friendly. Few people talk to you on the street, it can be hard to make new friends and people prefer to stay within their own bubbles. Here, wherever I go people smile and wave. At first I didn’t know what to do. Perhaps it’s a trick? Are they after something? I’m beginning to realize that it’s just friendliness.

I sat at a table and had complimentary soup. You could only get the free soup if you sat and mingled with strangers. The green heirloom tomato soup from the local restaurant Clover was carefully sprinkled with herbs, dashes of oil and a side of bread and cheese. Each dish was carefully crafted. Delicious.

 My Day in Glebe DSC03912“It’s an awesome place to raise kids. I wouldn’t consider living in another city near its downtown, but Ottawa is absolutely safe. And occasionally you even get free soup,” slurped Brano Jefic, a resident of the area for over two years, between mouthfuls. Soon someone had even signed me up for a local ski group.

While the Lansdowne market is a great opportunity for vendors to sell their products, it’s more of a chance for the buyer to meet the producer. Cora Beking, from Beking Eggs, said that while they do make a profit, going to farmer markets is more about promotion.

“People meet us at the market, and later order our eggs online,” said Beking. Going to the Lansdowne market is a way for them to grow and expand their businesses. It gives customers a chance to meet those who produce the food, learn, build relationships and stay connected.

I went to the Glebe expecting to be driven off the sidewalk by bitter and overzealous mothers. Instead I found friends, a job and people to go skiing with. My friend couldn’t have been more wrong. Next time I’ll leave the helmet at home.

Liam Harrap is a student in the Master of Journalism program at Carleton who grew up in the mountains of Alberta and has most recently come to Ottawa from Vancouver.

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