A "positive slow start."

That's how Donna Lee Macdonald assessed the debut of the Hamilton Farmers' Market outdoor program on Saturday. It's the first time the city-run enterprise has operated an outside market in 33 years.

"We've got three vendors outside," said Macdonald, the market's manager. "I'm pleased that it's a slow start because we're going to build this. It's not a one-Saturday sensation. We're going to be building this over five months."

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Opening their stands at 7 a.m., the vendors sold fresh produce along the sidewalk along the south side of York Boulevard, directly across the indoor market's front windows.

Around noon, there were no visible lineups for the outside booths. Pedestrians passed easily along the sidewalk, some stopping to peruse the fruits and vegetables on offer.

"It's a little slow, but that's pretty much expected for the first day of any market," said Andrea Roebuck, a salesperson for a family farm in Innerkip, Ont. "Hopefully, we'll pick up, but we'll see how it goes."


Clint Eborall's stand was selling strawberries on Saturday. His family has sold their produce at the Hamilton Farmers' Market for 24 years, he said. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

Unlike Roebuck, Clint Eborall operates a stall in the indoor market. His family has sold fruit from their orchards there for 24 years.

"The opportunity came up and we said, 'Well, we might as well come out here,' Eborall said of the decision participate in the outdoor program.

"It just adds a different buzz. There are people walking by who might not stop and pay attention to the market being inside, and they'll say, 'Oh, okay, we'll stop here.' "

Jeanie MacFarlane, ventured downtown from her home in Westdale to check out the new market. She said the outdoor stalls liven up the otherwise drab streetscape.

"It's nice to see something on the street that will pull you into the market," she said, adding, "It would be nice if it lined the whole block eventually."

More vendors to participate: market manager

The last time the Hamilton Farmers' Market had an outdoor program was in 1980. Macdonald said the renewed popularity of outside markets sparked the move to revive the practice.

"We know that with the number of pop-up outdoor markets that are popping up around the city, the public wants to experience outdoor markets and they want easy access to local produce," she said.

The outdoor program, she said, will run every Saturday until November 2. Macdonald expects the number of vendors will rise to between eight and ten by July.

"That's plenty," she noted. "In that case, we would have a full block of just produce."