To Market, To Market

While there are a few farmers’ markets that continue to run throughout the winter and spring seasons, they usually take place on Saturday mornings and are not always convenient. One of the wonderful things about Toronto’s farmers’ market scene in the peak season is that there are so many markets, scattered throughout the city, conveniently located near either home or work for most people.

During the summer, markets at Nathan Phillips Square on Wednesday mornings and Metro Hall on Thursday mornings are both extremely popular. Workers in the downtown core frequent these markets not just for grocery shopping but use them to grab snacks of baked goods or fresh fruit. When the markets shut down in the fall, this large population is under-served.

This past January, Gurth Pretty of Cheese of Canada, who also happens to be a vendor at the NPS and Metro Hall markets in the summer, arranged for a monthly take-over of the CBC atrium with some of the farmers and food artisans from the local market scene.

“Toronto has only four other venues at this time of the year. There are not enough venues for the amount of vendors,” he says. “During the summer months, there are markets everyday throughout the city. The CBC liked my idea of establishing a seasonal indoor market at their 250 Front Street West location.”

Vendors at the first two instalments of the Regional ‘n’ Artisanal Food Market were mostly of the food artisan variety. Prepared foods such as baked goods, pickles, granola and crackers were the mainstay of the offerings.

“Consumers have to remember that there are no strawberries nor asparagus grown in Ontario in February,” Pretty explains. “The local vegetables and fruit available at the market are either stored (potatoes, carrots, garlic), slightly processed (pickled, canned, frozen or dried) or grown in hot houses. The production of fruit and vegetables in Ontario is seasonally-influenced. I look forward to each growing season. My mouth waters when thinking of fresh Ontario fiddleheads, strawberries, peaches and leeks. I eat seasonally and process the season’s bounty to enjoy them later in the year.”

At last month’s market there was some stored produce available – Kawartha Ecological Growers has cabbages, root vegetables and eggs on offer at their booth. Pretty also points out that he manages the market so that there is a good cross-section of products available and not too much competition amongst the vendors. So customers can find some root veg, eggs, bread, cheese, crackers, jams and preserves, chocolate, honey and baked goods.

Okay, so customers are not going to manage to get all of their grocery shopping done in one fell swoop, but people really did seem to appreciate the market and the artisanal food on offer. When I arrived at the official start time at last month’s market, St. John’s Bakery had already sold out about 50% of their stock (many vendors actually set up at around 8 or 8:30am to catch the on-the-way-to-work crowd). And Dawn Woodward of Evelyn’s crackers remarked that most of her sales were for snack items such as her lavender shortbread cookies.

With only 8 to 10 vendors, the market is small – but there’s a great vibe. The space is bright and open (one of the things fans of the NPS and Metro Hall markets love is that the vendors are not all crammed together, and Pretty has continued that design trend as much as possible), and has a wonderful feeling of community about it.

The Regional ‘n’ Artisanal Food Market takes place on the last Thursday of the month (Pssst! That’s tomorrow!) at the Barbara Frum Atrium in the CBC Building (250 Front Street West) and runs again on April 29th. By the end of May, vendors will be back at the outdoor locations at Nathan Phillips Square and Metro Hall. Vendors include:

  • Cheese of Canada (Canadian cheese/dried apple and pear crackers),
  • Kawartha Ecological Growers (vegetables/preserves/eggs/meat)
  • More than Pies Baking Co. (biscotti and bars)
  • Toorshi Foods (savoury pickled vegetables)
  • Warner Farm (Niagara fruit products)
  • ChocoSol Traders and Chocolatiers (cocoa and coffee)
  • Nieuwenhuis Meadows (frozen lamb)
  • From These Roots (flower & fruit jam/salsa)
  • St. John’s Bakery (sourdough organic breads)
  • Evelyn’s Crackers (organic crackers)
  • Granola Girl (homemade granola and cookies)
  • Staite’s Honey (honey and related products)

Skeins of wool from Nieuwenhuis Meadows.

Oh my… pie and more from More Than Pie.

Empty baskets at St. John’s Bakery.

Sweet hat and sweet honey from Staite’s.

If you’re not addicted to Evelyn’s Crackers, you probably haven’t tried them yet.

The land of chocolate.

Cheese of Canada booth, with plenty o’ cheese and those tasty apple crackers.

These little honey-drenched donuts from Staite’s are the reason so many people go home with bottles of honey. They’re sooo good.

Pickles, in various degrees of fiery, from Toorshi.