Josh Smee

Josh Smee

If you go back to the beginning, It’s all music’s fault, really. Music connected me to a beautiful young woman that I’d decide to spend the rest of my life with. Music introduced her to St. John’s as a young violinist. Music brought me to St. John’s for the first time, more than a decade ago now, following her to a festival. Music got us onto a plane back to St. John’s a couple years later, everything we owned in a few suitcases, lease signed sight unseen on an old house downtown.

That’s what got me here. What keeps me here is more layered. Sometimes it’s the smell of the air in the morning, or the energy of a great show downtown, or looking out the window and seeing the ocean, or taking my baby daughter for a swim in a pond in the woods, 10 minutes from my door. There’s all that. But there’s also the chance I’ve had to make a difference. This city is so hungry for community-building and for a sense of place. It’s full of people who, just like me, go back and forth between being totally in love with this place and being so frustrated with it that you want to throw the whole works into the harbour.

I suppose that’s how I found the Farmers’ Market, or how the market found me. As for so many people who’ve lived away, for me a local farmers’ market had always just been there. Without the long history of markets that some other cities have, a little scrappy cooperative in St. John’s had built something really special here. It quickly became a hub of community and friendship and connection for me – as it is for so many people.

In any case, though I can’t grow a vegetable to save my life, running projects and writing proposals is my jam. I ended up on the board just as an incredible possibility started to emerge, the opportunity to create a permanent market, a gathering space this city so desperately needed. Helping make that happen took up a lot of the next six years. Whatever project it is I’m into, I always see my role as helping structure the ideas and energy a community already has. That was exactly what I found myself doing as part of the team that helped take the new community market from a gleam in our eyes to that moment we cut a ribbon and 10,000 people came through the doors.

What made that happen? A good few late nights, but mostly the belief that this was such an obviously good thing for this community that it just had to happen. And it did. Kids emptied their piggy banks, volunteers filled their evenings, city staff wrote and re-wrote, and somehow we got there. I look around and I see the most vibrant, multicultural, lively space in the city and I am just bowled over that I had anything to do with it.  

By Josh Smee, community activist and Chief Executive Officer at Food First NL.

The St. John's Community Market, located at 245 Freshwater Road, was built by the City of St. John's to provide community space and is operated under a long-term lease by the St. John's Farmer's Market. The project was financed through government and community funding agencies. The City of St. John’s contributed $2 million through its capital budget, close to $1.17 million came from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and $490,000 from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation. The St. John’s Farmers’ Market Cooperative contributed $100,000 through fundraisers and funding agencies including the Aviva Community Fund, the Community Fund of NL, and VOCM Cares.

For information on renting the community market for an event, please contact SJFM.