At 40, the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market is looking to renovate and expand

The Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market is an Edmonton landmark celebrating 40 years and now eyeing expansion. The goal is to raise $7 million for a renovation and revitalization that would transform the transit garage into a hub for tasty tourism.

A café, farm store, event space and moving to 2 days a week are in the plans

A smiling man with glasses stands in the market with stalls and people walking behind him.
Old Strathcona Farmers' Market manager Keith Persaud greeting customers. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

The Old Strathcona Farmers' Market, a staple of Edmonton's Saturday shopping scene for 40 years, is looking to renovate and expand.

"What we're going to do is turn the building into a hub," says Keith Persaud, manager of the market that opened in 1983.

The expansion and renovations would allow the market to operate on Fridays, instead of just on Saturdays, with some areas of the building open even more.

"We want to put a café up front so that people can come in anytime during the week, on the weekends, in the evenings, and have a meal, have a glass of wine," Persaud says.

The renovated and expanded space would offer things like multicultural markets, cooking shows and art classes.
A view looking down on the market where you can see shoppers milling about and carrots and other produce for sale.
A view from the seating area on the second level of the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

The building, just off Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard, is a former transit garage owned by the City of Edmonton.

The non-profit is in the middle of securing funding and finalizing another lease agreement but "if everything goes according to plan," Persaud says construction would start next January.

The market would remain open during the renovation.

Persaud pegs the price tag for the project, which would include work on the heating, plumbing and electrical systems, at around $7 million. The funding would need to come from public and private sources. 

WATCH | Take a stroll in the market and learn about the expansion plans: 

'Being here for 40 years as a market, we want to be here for the next 40'

3 months ago
Duration 1:49
Take a tour and learn more about the renovation plans for the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market in Edmonton.

You can see more from the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market on this week's edition of Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. on Monday.

Kevin Zellweger, a baker with The Quarter Section Food Co., is president of the market's board of directors.

"It's very humbling to have 140 businesses put their trust in you to expand this market," Zellweger says.

He says there's so much potential in a renovated space that would also have a store stocked with items from market vendors.

"It will be a true farm-to-table store." 

Zellweger says the market saw 400,000 visitors last year.
Shoppers outside a brown brick building with two sets of red double doors and the words Old Strathcona Farmers' Market in yellow above it.
The farmers' market, seen here on March 18, has been a popular gathering place in Edmonton's Old Strathcona district since it opened in 1983. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

In 2018 he landed a spot to sell his cookies, croissants and bread. It meant the difference between taking a second job or not. 

"Our business supports us on the farm, and this wouldn't have been possible without this market," he says.

With expansion plans ramping up he says there's a buzz about the future. At the same time, he adds, "We owe a lot to the founders of this market."

Doug Lyseng with Maplewood Acres is one of those original farmers who recall the early days at the outdoor market selling produce out of the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot.

"Pretty dirty and gravelly," Lyseng says. "When the wind came up we'd have dust on our vegetables."
Old picture of people selling produce at the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market on a summer day in a parking lot.
A sense of what the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market looked like in July 1983, outdoors in the parking lot. (CBC)

Then they moved into the former bus garage, which wasn't weatherproof and still had an industrial feel.

"In the building itself we had great big pits where the buses were changing their oil, prior to us using it.

"We had plywood overtop and every once and a while someone would back in onto the plywood and down they'd go." 

Lyseng says tow trucks were called several times before the pits were filled in during the market expansion in the 1990s.

He says the new renovation and being open on Friday will be "awesome."

Three people selling vegetables to customers work behind a stall at an indoor farmers' market.
The Lyseng family works to keep up with customer demand at their Maplewood Acres stall at the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

"The two days are going to be amazing," says Josie Dib of Sweet Mezza Lebanese Bakery. "It's going to help business."

Dib opened her stall at the market during the pandemic. She sells salads, dips and breads. 

"I'm representing the culture and cuisine and I'm trying to bring something new and unique to the farmers' market with my bakery," she says. 

Dib is excited to be a part of the future of what she calls a "beautiful community.

"This market has really given me an opportunity to shine."

The market is currently open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays with free two-hour parking across the street.
A customer in a red tuque and glasses listens to a woman who is pointing to items in a cooler.
Market vendor Josie Dib explains some of her Sweet Mezza Lebanese Bakery products to a customer. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)


Adrienne Lamb


Adrienne Lamb is the host and producer of Our Edmonton featured weekly on CBC TV. She served for several years as CBC Radio's national arts reporter in Edmonton. Prior to moving to Alberta in 2001, Adrienne worked at CBC in Ontario and New Brunswick. Adrienne is a graduate of Western University with a degree in English and Anthropology and a Masters in Journalism.