Flesherton has lost the closest thing it has to a bustling town square. Let’s hope it’s restored soon. On a normal Saturday summer morning, the space bounded by the Kinplex Community Centre, Flesherton arena and Flesherton pubic library is the site of the Flesherton and District Farmers’ Market. The library does a brisk Saturday morning business, often because of market-goers who couple their shopping with a library visit. And volunteers from the Friends of the Library (I’m one of them) sell used books to raise funds for the library — a modest but recurring addition to the money Grey Highlands spends on its libraries. We volunteers are more than book-hawkers. We spend much of our time chatting with market visitors — often people visiting Flesherton for the first time. We are goodwill ambassadors for the town, its library and its market.
The pandemic changed all that. A normal market was impossible. The farmers market tried to strike a deal with Grey Highlands to use the market space for a drive-in market, where customers could pick up pre-ordered plants, produce and products. But it didn’t happen — foundering it seems, on failure to find a way to provide washrooms to volunteers (the library has washrooms at its entrance, separated by lockable doors from the rest of the library, that could have been used by safely bending rules).
Thanks to the civic-minded family at Leela’s Vllla Inn on Highway 10, the farmers’ market found a place to hold its market pick-up service. It asked for a small grant from Grey Highlands’ COVID-19 Relief Grant Program — turned down on the grounds that the market didn’t show how it helps people in Grey Highlands who are in crisis due to COVID-19. Yet small-scale local vendors who spent money this winter tending seedlings and preparing quality local products for a market that disappeared, are in a crisis. They can solve it, but a little help from the town would have made it easier.
Soon it will be possible to restore the farmers’ market as it once was, with safety precautions. Both the Municipality of Grey Highlands and the Farmers’ Market should make it high priority to re-establish the market in its former location near the library. We should expect them to work with each other and the rest of the community to make Flesherton’s Saturday civic square even more vibrant and inclusive. If we believe in civic resilience, let’s build on what works.
Neither my fellow library volunteers nor library staff were made aware of this letter. It’s solely my opinion, selfishly submitted. I want my perch back, selling books to market-goers and telling visitors they are in a town where people care about each other in the short haul and the long run.
John Butler, Port Law in Grey Highlands, Ontario
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