friends of dufferin grove park
Market Stories from our newsletters, 2005

Pictures from last winter's 2003-2004 winter market...

Our Market Manager,
Anne Freeman, 2004
posted September 1, 2005
Farmers' Market: From Irene of Deer Valley:

Itís always a good idea to bring a cooler & ice with you when shopping at the market...especially when buying fresh or frozen meats. This Thurs. Sept. 1st we will have our free-range organic chickens available fresh. There will be a limited number available this week only. For customers who are looking forward to getting our venison patties againÖwill have them available this week also.

For Farmers' Market information,

posted August 12, 2005 from the August Newsletter

On Thursday August the 4th, a city by-law enforcement officer came to the park. He was shocked to see the farmers parking on the grass inside the park (beside their stands) and gave them a warning. The next week, he said, he would be back at market time, and would give them each a $105 ticket if he saw them even driving up to unload.

The officer then went down to the wading pool and said the food cart was illegal, the cob courtyard was probably illegal, and when he found out we have campfires in the park, he said that was illegal too. He also said that there had been a complaint about the food cart. Someone had reported that it was run by an (unnamed) private individual.

The by-law enforcement officer wasn’t much interested in our explanations. He described all that he saw to his supervisor on his cell phone, and told the park staff that his supervisor was “hopping mad” at what he was hearing.  

The officer summoned a public health inspector from another district, on an emergency basis. The inspector arrived and walked all around with the park with our staff person Mayssan. Then he wrote “unwarranted complaint” on his inspection form and left. The by-law enforcement officer left too, saying he’d be back.

The friends of the park have received a lot of support from park managers over the years. We called West Region manager James Dann, and described the situation.  It seemed clear that the problem here was a misunderstanding – the by-law enforcement officer had not heard of a park like ours, and assumed that we were getting away with murder.

James called the by-law enforcement supervisor and reassured him. He confirmed that we have had regular contact with Public Health, and the friends of the park work in close collaboration with Parks and Recreation.  It emerged that the main problem with the farmers’ market was the lack of a farmers’ market permit. (Since there are only two markets in Toronto parks, such permits are not a standard item.) So James arranged for an official city permit. That means the by-law enforcement officer will not come back next week and fine each farmer $105 after all.  

This is another example of the problem with centralized structure (management by function). Officials come from elsewhere in the city and find us confusing. They make a panic and the whole business takes so much of everyone’s time. We’ve asked for a meeting to discuss the real world of farmers’ markets, with City managers. We also hope that the Parks, Forestry and Recreation general manager, Brenda Librecz, will find a way to have our park administered locally, not centrally (see “Open Letter”).

The by-law enforcement officer who came to our park seemed just as appalled by what he saw here as the City’s Health and Safety rink inspectors were in December 2003, when they said that ours was the worst rink they had ever seen. You have to wonder: what would their ideal park look like?

For more stories of the effects of the City Parks and Recreation Department's centralized "functional" management approach, see "Jutta's Parks Restructuring Diary".


posted January 25, 2005

The Dufferin Grove Park farmersí market is now deep in its winter period, so itís all held inside, in the change room area and also in the zamboni garage (on Thursdays, the zamboni is banished outside, to the basketball court). The food thatís sold at the market is mainly certified organic, and itís very good food. Food with the "certified organic" label is now a big global business. You can find any kind of food in any season, thatís got the organic label. But for many market customers, the "organic" part is no more important than the "local" part.

At our market, the same farmers who sell their own produce in the summer are allowed to import long-distance fruits and vegetables in the winter. They still sell their own root vegetables too, and of course the meat and baked goods vendors are not dependent on the seasons in the same way - they sell their own products year-round.

Importing high-quality organic produce from the California mega-farms helps the farmers from our market get through the winter, but everyone will be glad when the local growing season gets going again. The joy of local food is that the market customers get to know the people who grew it (and cooked it, in the case of prepared foods). Whatís more, the customers know the terrain where the farms are. The farmers can tell us even more: for example Ted Thorpe says the reason his carrots are so sweet is because his farm near Guelph has a little microclimate where the frost comes later. So he can take the gamble of digging the carrots up very late, before the ground is frozen but when itís already so cold that the carrots have become sweet from staying in the field so long. Thereís no test-tube mystery to those carrots, but thereís a story, right from the grower.

Even where raw materials come from a distance, the preparation is nearby. The park bakers get their hard-wheat flour delivered from the prairies, but the loaves are mixed and risen in the park. The fire to bake them is right there too (the wood the bakers burn in the park ovens comes from trees that are cut down in the neighbourhood, or skid wood that park friend and carpenter Alan Carlisle brings us from Downtown Lumber on Ossington). The hands that shaped the bread are the same hands that put it in the bag for you and hand it over, and if you want to know more, you just ask the bakers (park staff Dan Malloy, Matt Leitold, Lea Ambros, Amy Withers, and soon, Gabriella Mihalik).

The market food, the prices, whatís for sale in any given week - all this comes with so many stories. If farmer Ute Zell canít easily catch the wild boar because a boar is a wily fellow who keeps his distance (and he gets to be outside), that means you often canít get wild boar sausages. But when Uteís husband Tom does catch the boar, and their neighbouring butcher turns it into roasts and sausages, the price is fair and it makes sense (if you know the story). And when you eat the sausages, you know that it was worth the wait.

In some circles organic and small-scale "artisan" foods are thought of as elitist, marketed for people with money to burn. But the people who buy food at our park farmersí market are neither rich nor snobbish. Weíre ordinary people, living in a big city, in tricky environmental times. There are some farmers, growing fine, plain food, living nearby. They come to the market because they want to sell their food and they really like to know the people who they grow for. What luck, for us.