Insider Itinerary: Emma Barken of the Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market

By Visit Kingston

Born and raised here, I moved back to Kingston in 2010 after living in Montreal for almost a decade. Kingston was a great place to grow up; moving away was a rite of passage, but it made me appreciate what a special place Kingston is! Moving back to Kingston, and looking to get involved in local vegetable production, I worked at a few area farms. While pregnant with my second child, one of the farmers suggested I apply to manage the then two-year-old Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market, and I’ve been operations manager for the past eight years. 

Here are my favourite things to see and do in Kingston. 


We have so many different breweries to choose from. Some of my favorites are the Kingston Brewing Company, Fine Balance Brewing Co., and Mackinnon Brothers Brewing Co.   

KBC is such a great place to be when the patios open, I’m always excited to see what’s on their extensive beer menu. Fine Balance Brewing is well worth the drive to Kingston’s east end. It’s easy to bring the kids to, as they have board games, juice, and chips! Lastly, MacKinnon Brothers Brewing is the ideal setting, relaxed atmosphere, and right on the farm.


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Swim spots

With the swimming season around the corner, there are a few places that are a must-go. “Flat rocks beach,” aka Patterson Park, always has a great breeze. Make sure to bring your water shoes to explore the shoreline, find sea glass, and play in the waves. Lake Ontario Park is the perfect place for a quick dip, and to marvel at all the ways people use Lake Ontario’s waterfront. Gord Edgar Downie Pier –  while the PUC docks of my youth were great, this is much improved! Pick the right time of day, and this is a family-friendly spot! Always great for people-watching. It’s a rite of passage to jump off the diving platform.


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Reading, watercolors, and board games – luckily for me, we’ve got great local businesses to enhance all of these! I could spend hours in Minotaur browsing their games, and honestly, all the best presents are bought here.  Novel Idea is what a bookstore should be, with a considerable curated selection of books from near and far. Art Noise is unique, with affordable and high-end art supplies and with such knowledgeable staff.


Kingston has some great spots to find a hidden gem or two!  The Revolving Door is a very well-organized and clean consignment. These ladies are discerning and everything is well cared for and in season. I always find some great pieces here. Another favourite thrift store is YGK Thrift has an unbelievable turnover and the location is perfect being right on the main street, so easy to hit up. Last but certainly not least is the Closett Candyy Consignment. They are new to the scene, with a great location right on Brock Street, and specialize in higher-end scores.

The entertainment scene

Kingston has so many different entertainment options. My favorites include The Screening Room, Musiikki Cafe & Whiskey Bar,  and The Hotel on Wolfe Island  

The Screening Room is a must-visit! Going to the movies really can be magical; it’s an affordable experience and brings back classic theatre experiences. The next stop on the list is Musiiki; a cozy whiskey and coffee bar. It’s a great spot to catch some local music daily and they have a beautiful patio in the back courtyard in the summer. The Hotel on Wolfe Island is another great place for entertainment. It is currently under new management and these guys are bringing in the musical acts from all over the place, and they have the best view of Kingston.


Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market

Of course, this is on the list; it’s the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning! The local produce is something to touch on. I am so proud to say that our agricultural producers have veggies all year round, so you can truly eat in season. The unique prepared food, including Long Road Eco Farm’s steamed buns with butternut squash dough, Main Street Urban Farm’s okonomiyaki (a Japanese vegetable pancake), and Little German Baker’s jalapeno pretzel dog, just to name a few. The market offers more than just shopping; feel free to join in a yoga class, listen to some local musicians, or run to the splash pad and aqua park to cool off. 

I am just so excited to get back outside, under the trees! May 7th kicks off the outdoor market season: Sundays 9 am to 2 pm, rain or shine. Every year we welcome a few new vendors to add to our existing crew! This year we’re excited to have Spring Pasture Farms, new farmers bringing lamb and wool to the market. Cravin’ is a local, gourmet home food box provider that also offers healthy sandwiches and salads. Carolina Rojas is a photographer with Kingston-focused artwork. Lastly, ChocChique is a bean-to-bar chocolate maker! 

In a complete sentence, “how does Kingston make you feel”?

Kingston makes me feel like there are endless ways to strengthen our community;  we are the perfect size to pilot all sorts of innovations to tackle the challenges we’re facing.  



If Kingston had a theme song, what would it be?

“Boys’ Town” by The Gertrudes

Describe Kingston in three words.

Surrounded by lakes. 

Are there any upcoming events at the Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market that you are excited about: performers, kids’ activities, etc.

In addition to all the great vendors, we host many community groups and special events, from beer gardens with local breweries to a monthly Kingston School of Art table with art projects for all ages to the ever-popular Zucchini 500. Yes, that’s zucchinis racing on wheels down a wooden track! Check for updates on our social media pages.