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< March 12-2015 | Notes Library | April 9-2015 >

Weekly Market Notes for April 02, 2015

Hello Market Friends:

I'm going to start off by helping you to make your shopping list for the weekend, and then (for those who feel like more reading) I'd like to tell you about my recent international market adventures.

First thing on the list this week, of course, is eggs! Country Meadows and Bees Universe will have lots of fresh ones.

Reimer Vineyards kicks off our wine season this week with their organic VQA selections.

Andrew Akiwenzie is coming again this week, and the Dufferin Park Bakers hope to make challah. We recommend coming early for these limited-supply and much sought-after items.

From Beretta Farms: "Our rental car company is closed Good Friday, which means we have to return the van after market, so unfortunately we'll have to leave early, by 6:30."

DeFloured returns next week.

You can give the Easter Bunny a helping hand with treats from ChocoSol!

We'll have great salad greens, organic fruit brought in for us by Plan B, a variety of cheeses from Best Baa, mustards from Forbes and Culture City, chutneys and pickles from Spade & Spoon, in other words, everything necessary for a feast, whether traditional or wildly inventive. The full vendor list is below.

Urban Harvest (Colette) will be at the market steadily now to help you get ready for great gardening ahead. If your green thumbs are itching to get started, check out COG Toronto's April 11 workshop on extending the season, and chat with Dufferin Grove gardeners Leslie and Pia at the market. Dufferin Grove is going to be THE place for gardening supplies this year. We'll have new products including worm castings compost and cacao shell mulch from ChocoSol, an excellent selection of herb, vegetable, and flower seeds and seedlings, and native species perennials and shrubs.

A note from Pia on another topic:

'Have you heard? Dufferin Grove Farmers Market is on Facebook! Check us out and 'like' us here, to get reminders, as well as all the updates & news you'll need from our vendors. Have something market-related you'd like to share, or have us share? Sure! Just send it along to our Facebook inbox, post it to our page, or tag us. Help us spread the love & please do invite your friends online to 'like' us, and 'share' our page with your networks too - the indoor market could use your help getting the word out, before moving completely outdoors for the beautiful warmer seasons...soon to come!'

And now, part 2

Adventures in Spain

Last week I had the good fortune to attend an International Public Markets conference in Barcelona, along with 6 other Torontonians involved in various kinds of markets. Participants from more than 40 countries told the stories of remarkable projects, and our host city gave us a royal welcome. I'll be thinking about the experience for a long while, and hoping to share and apply some learning for the benefit of markets here.

Barcelona is a city of 1.6 million people, with over 40 market buildings as well as open-air markets of many kinds. There's a terrific attitude to pedestrians and shared public spaces, and the city government has issued a declaration that no one should have to walk more than ten minutes to access fresh food-- amazing! Add to that a climate that allows for a great range of crops, a rich tradition of gastronomy, and huge ongoing enthusiasm for sociable eating, and it sounds pretty much like a market-lovers dream come true. I arrived ahead of the conference, and started searching out markets.

The city's market architecture, generally a fusion of historic and contemporary, is stunning (please, could we have a roof like the one on the Santa Caterina market?) and the displays are masterful: mountains of impeccably arranged fruits, endless seafood, the famous jamon in many variations...but in my initial forays, I wondered why I didn't feel smitten. I figured the conference would help, as an entire day was devoted to tours of markets. We toured enormous projects in the works, including multi-storey underground loading bays, waste-sorting facilities and lockers for vendors, even newly discovered Roman ruins being incorporated into renewed buildings. Hundreds of millions of Euros are going into infrastructure.

So what's the catch? Well, there's hardly a farmer in sight, and someone on the tour coined the phrase 'fruit malls' for what we were seeing; many of the products seemed a bit generic. The guide explained that, as well as new vendor stations, every market being renewed includes a supermarket now, too, some hidden away on lower levels, and others with prominent signage and placement. Yes, he said, the vendors were initially resistant, but it brings more young people, who want one-stop shopping, and (here it comes) the supermarkets are covering a substantial part of the renewal costs. The vendors get to choose whether to buy into the new projects or not. In one work in progress, that means the redesigned market will have 24 larger stalls where there were previously 100 small businesses in operation.

My excellent conference companion Marina Queirolo of Evergreen Brick Works ruffled some feathers when she asked where farmers fit into this picture. It was explained that there is a long tradition of merchants choosing the food their customers want, and that expertise is highly valued. Okay, and most farmers couldn't afford the time to run stalls like these all week, but are the food producers getting a fair deal? At the city market level, despite statements about sustainability, that just didn't seem to be a topic of discussion. Representatives of farmers' markets started seeking each other out and expressing solidarity; clearly quite a few people were feeling uncomfortable with this picture. Fortunately, the conference did include encouraging presentations on several producer-focused models on different scales, including London's Borough Market, which is celebrating 1,000 years, affirming that the shift to markets where growers and makers are invisible is not inevitable. Canada was well represented by the manager of the Halifax Farmers' Market, who shared great examples of young farming and prepared food businesses growing with community support in her presentation.

After the final sessions, we were invited to visit an actual farmers' market that takes place right beside one of the most famous market halls. (Our guide was Kamal Mouzawak, the founder of a tiny but profoundly significant market in Lebanon, which brings together women to cook traditional foods and find paths to peace. That's a whole other story to tell, but visit to learn more.) These vendors clearly resented tourists, and one can't blame them for it, as the tourists overcrowd the space and buy nothing but snacks and souvenirs. Marina's warmth and fluent Spanish got us past a prickly start, and we learned that there used to be a hundred farmers at this market, where now there aren't even half a dozen. A woman who had been a vendor for 41 years told us that nobody's kids from the small farms close to the city want to farm, and the government is happy when the land sits fallow, because then they can expropriate it with little risk of protest. Troubling stuff.

I came home feeling proud of what we've been trying to build in Toronto, but also aware that our situation is fragile. Many market organizers are dealing with permit problems, heavy-handed bylaw officers, and other obstacles right now, instead of getting support for their markets' contributions to the city, and after another very tough winter, some of us are concerned about whether enough Torontonians are committed to supporting local food producers to ensure that they can have stable and truly viable livelihoods. But let's be hopeful. Toronto has the potential to be a great 'Market City'. We already know that life here is made better by the connections markets foster with our communities and with the people who grow and make our food, so let's forge ahead.

See you at the market!

Anne Freeman

Vendors this week, and where to find them:

(The Rinkhouse is at the north end of the building, the Garage at the south.)

  • Akiwenzies Fish (frozen, fresh and smoked Georgian Bay fish), Outside
  • Ali Harris (fish sandwiches, fritters, hemp pesto, beverages), Rinkhouse
  • Bees Universe (honey and bee products), Rinkhouse
  • Beretta Farms (organic and naturally raised meats), Garage
  • Best Baa (sheep's milk, cheeses and yogurt), Rinkhouse
  • ChocoSol (coffee and chocolate), Garage
  • Country Meadows (olives, oil, eggs, cheese), Rinkhouse
  • Culture City (fermented condiments, tempehs), Outside
  • Dufferin Park Bakers (wood-fired oven breads, soups,and snacks), Rinkhouse
  • Earth and City (raw foods and warm drinks), Garage
  • Forbes Wild Foods (dried mushrooms, nuts, syrup, preserves), Rinkhouse
  • Kind Organics (sprouts, salad mixes, teas, chocolate), Rinkhouse
  • Plan B (organic fruits and veggies!) , Garage
  • Marvellous Edibles (organic vegetables, Berkshire pork, baking), Rinkhouse
  • Sosnickis Organic Produce (organic vegetables), Outside
  • Spade & Spoon (jams, pickles, soups), Rinkhouse
  • Urban Harvest (seeds, body care, soil amendments), Rinkhouse
  • VQA Wines (Reimer Vineyards this week), Outside
  • Ying Ying Soy (tofus and miso from ON organic soybeans), Rinkhouse

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