My cool name is Ken Atlantic, and I am an international student taking the program Master of Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island. In the first class of Introduction Themes and Perspective of Islands, we learn about a phenomenon word: ‘Islandness”. This word is an expression about islands’ characteristics, unlike what I think I know about them before :

And that is exactly what happens when you live here for long – you take the Island inside – deep inside. You become an Islander, which is to say, a creature of the Island. Islandness becomes a part of your being – a part as deep as marrow, and as natural and unselfconscious as breathing.

(DAVID,1991 )

One day, when I was struggling to digest numerous journals from my lovely professor Laurie. This question continually pops up in my mind: What does it genuinely mean about Islandness? How is it visible, or how does an islander feel it?  One idea quickly arose in my mind: I need to go and find it in reality. I would love to invite you to join the journey with me :

The Prince Edward Islands has everything to be a fantastic place of charming scenery and unique culture. Though, where can we see its Islandness most visibly?

 I decided to come to Charlottetown Farmer’s Market because I think that is where I can meet many people, so perhaps I can ask them about it.

Ken atlantic

The Farmer’s Market locates at 100 Belvedere Charlottetown, just beside UPEI. The Market firstly opened back in 1984, and it has been operating every Saturday morning, continuously for 36 years until today. People can buy almost every local food such as organic groceries, meats, baked food, roasted coffee and tea, and crafted goods. Charlottetown Farmers’ Market has something for every taste and desire.

Wandering around the Market, I observed buyers in their transactions, vehicles, and booths. It brings such a delight to see everything was nicely decorated and somehow represented a pride of who they are and what they are selling. What I inadvertently find this Market is the place that people come not only for grocery shopping but also for meeting and talking to each other. People first greet each other’s and talk about the product’s function and sources, sometimes social talk on family or society’s events. Many families even bring their children to play for a weekend’s morning or merely to walk around to enjoy the feeling of their whole Island is present right there. This Market sensually represents a place of community for the islanders:

A distinct fature off island is their “sense of place,” which particularly evident on smaller islands, where the coastline is more conspicuous.Studies of present-day islanders suggest that such clear terrestrial boundaries foster a strong sense of community derived by geography: physical containment results in strong place identification

(Dawson, 2019)

Observing for a while, I met Browe, who grew up in PEI, and he is doing gardening as his interest when getting to this age. Browe said the Market is significant to islanders because they love to get fresh and healthy organic products picked from the garden. He showed me all sorts of groceries and took pride in what he has been doing. He has never missed a time for 30 years in this Market!

After that, I met Jacob, a young PEI student in his second year of psychology at UPEI. He usually comes to the Market once a month, but he misses it for six months due to COVID.

“It is nice to come around here, see people I know, eat food and buy goods”

Jacob said

For a young man like Jacob, this place detects to be a fun communal place, helping local businesses.

Last I met Reg Phelan, who has been doing this organic business for more than fifteen years. Reg is also a PEI islander. Reg shared a great insight into the Island’s organic product culture and land history in PEI. In the late 1980s, Reg published a book called “The Islanders and the Land” to illustrate his thought on islanders’ livelihood and the land’s history.

Growing organic products’ culture originated in centuries by our ancestors on this land. The tradition changed only in recent years when people started using the chemicals from the outside world.

REg Phelan

When I asked Reg what he thinks about this Market, he said people complained that it was crowded, yet still, stick to it because that is their community’s cultural symbol. Sadly, after the COVID, the Market has a new set up outdoor, and it is too spacious but less of that feeling.

Although coming from different generations and backgrounds, they all come up with a similar mindset of being attached to the Farmer Market as The Place of Islanders.

In my thought, the Islandness of Prince Edward islands comprises the attachment of Island’s community places, the pride and awareness of Islanders’ origins, and their intentional ways of life. It is everything but not immobility, smallness, or isolation. Islanders’ mindset expresses their confirmation of PEI as their own universe where the land, the sea, and the people are precious properties and pride to tell about :

The strong sense of island identity stemming from the sharpness of that wave-lined boundary is often said to consist in the community-defining bond of a shared sense of isolation that generates a unique sense of difference to other populations. Islophiles tend to extol this sense of insularity; to see it as a source of islander resilience and versatility, and a state of existence to be cherished

Hay 2002 , p.22

It is time I need to go back because I have to submit my assignment one to Professor Laurie. Still, I definitely will come back to the Market more often because I love it and see it as a vast home’s garden of the Island.

Have a good one , see you next time !


A journey to find Islandness. Tai Nguyen (Ken) (Director). ().[Video/DVD] https://youtu.be/qpkCVF3xbhY

Dawson, H. (2019). Island Archaeology. Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology (pp. 1-8). Springer International Publishing. https://10.1007/978-3-319-51726-1_3280-1

Hay, P. R. (2002). Vandiemonian essays Walleah Press. Retrieved from https://proxy.library.upei.ca/login?qurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ebscohost.com%2flogin.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26db%3dcat01065a%26AN%3dupei.374505%26site%3deds-live%26scope%3dsite%26profile%3Deds

Phelan, R. (1996). Islanders and the land : A multi-disciplinary approach to the culture of the land struggle in prince edward island Saint Mary’s University. Retrieved from https://proxy.library.upei.ca/login?qurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ebscohost.com%2flogin.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26db%3dcat01065a%26AN%3dupei.238123%26site%3deds-live%26scope%3dsite%26profile%3Dlite http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk2/ftp04/mq22806.pdf

Weale, D. (1991) ‘Islandness’, Island Journal, Maine, Island Institute, No. 8, pp. 81-82.

3 thoughts on “A JOURNEY TO FIND ISLANDNESS (Part 1 Farmer Market)

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