There is something about unpleasant weather that makes me want to go far away from the city and civilization. I can’t really explain why, but I fundamentally enjoy going where nobody else wants to go, when nobody wants to go. It might be due to my belief that the more I suffer, the more interesting my encounters will be. It could also just be my way of putting life in perspective by reminding myself that I could be in much worse conditions.
This winter, when the freezing rain and snow storms arrived, my insatiable need to get out of the city awoke like clockwork. Although my schedule and the harsh weather made it difficult to go far, I managed to sneak away to one of my favourite rural community in Ontario – St. Jacobs.
Located an hour outside of Toronto and a half hour from Niagara Falls, St. Jacobs is famous for its Mennonite heritage. Today, about 4,000 Old Order Mennonites still farm in its surrounding countryside. My favourite place in St. Jacobs is its year round farmer’s market, where a large number of these Mennonites visit, both as vendors and as customers.
Prior to my visit, I did a fair amount of research on photographing Mennonites since I knew that some of them, such as Amish Mennonites, strongly oppose being photographed. My researched revealed that while most of them will refuse to “pose” for a photo or agree to their photograph being taken when asked, many are fine with candid photos and comfortable with being around cameras. I’ve seen a lot of published photographs of Mennonites from St. Jacobs market so I knew I wouldn’t seriously offend anyone with my camera, but I still did my best at shooting discretely.
One of the reasons I love to visit this market is its delicious food – I can spend hours just sampling the various home-made jams and the wide selection of sausages. But my favourite part of visting the market is for its delicious apple fritter that tastes like sugar heaven.
While St. Jacobs is nothing as extreme as Alaska or Antarctica, it’s still shocking to think that just 1 hour outside of Toronto is a town where people live completely off the land and stores have parking stalls for horse carriages.