Another Toronto Farmers’ Market Map

I found this map on the Toronto Farmers’ Market Network site today; it combines the calendar and map information into one by using different coloured pushpins for different days, and having the market hours in the popup if you click on the pushpin. Nice work!

View Toronto Farmers Markets 2010 in a larger map

It covers a slightly different list of markets than the map and calendar that I published earlier this week (and I actually like the calendar view since I can overlay it on my own Google calendar with a single click), but it’s a great consolidated view.

When And Where Are All Those Toronto Farmers’ Markets?

Thanks for all the great feedback on the St. Andrew’s market update yesterday: we’re all sad that it’s not happening this year, but hopeful for next year.

In the meantime, I started to mark my calendar with the other markets close to me, realized that it was too much info for my private calendar so ended up creating a public calendar of all of the Toronto farmers’ markets from the Farmers’ Markets Ontario site:

You can add this to your Google calendar using the button at the bottom right of the calendar so that you see it overlaid with your own calendar, or go to it directly so that you can bookmark it. Click on each item in the calendar for details, or switch to Agenda view using the button at the top right to see them in a date-ordered list.

Since someone had created nice Google map locations for each of the markets, I also pulled those together into a single map so that you can see what’s close to you:

View Toronto Markets in a larger map

You can zoom and pan directly on this map, or click on the link at the bottom of the map to open it directly so that you can bookmark it.

If I’ve missed any, let me know by adding a comment to this entry. I did not validate that the FMO entries were correct, I just used them as printed on their site; until today, they still had the St. Andrew’s market listed as active for 2010 and there may be other errors.

Alas, St. Andrew’s MyMarket Is No More (For Now)

Last year, we (the local volunteer committee) worked with the MyMarket organization, the farmers and the City of Toronto to help bring you the Historic St. Andrew’s MyMarket. I blogged a number of times about the market, including this last update in March following the planning meeting that was held with MyMarket, the farmers and volunteers from all of the markets. At the time of that meeting, I noted that the feedback wasn’t promising: we only had two farmers willing to commit to our market for this year, and the stringent rules of the MyMarket program meant that we couldn’t include other vendors unless they passed the MyMarket “certified Ontario farmer” program.

In early May – when we should have been planning for the opening day – MyMarket informed us that not enough vendors were interested in participating in our market this year. We looked into the possibility of organizing an independent market to replace it, possibly with the few vendors who did want to participate plus those that we could approach on our own, but it wasn’t possible to get everything in order for a market this year: there were issues of negotiating with the city for use of the space, licensing and insurance, managing the market on a weekly basis, and organizing the farmers and other vendors. As unpaid volunteers with no government mandate behind us, it just wasn’t possible.

We haven’t given up, however: 2012 will mark the 175th anniversary of the original St. Andrew’s market, and we are working at resurrecting a market in 2011 that will be sufficiently successful to carry us over into 2012 and the years to come. That could mean getting the city involved to run the market, or some local fund-raising to cover the costs of rent, licensing, insurance and a market manager.

Hyper-local markets like St. Andrew’s are the only access that many city-dwellers have to farm-fresh produce: nearly 100% of our shoppers arrived on foot (or bicycle), and a large percentage don’t even own cars, which makes a trip to more distant farmers’ markets unlikely. We have a few other farmers markets downtown; although none are close enough that I’ll be walking home with a load of fruits and vegetables, they’re worth checking out. The closest three are weekday markets in non-residential areas, targeted at workers on their lunch hour rather than full-on weekly shoppers:

  • Closest to St. Andrew’s, at just over 1km, is Metro Hall. Thursdays, 8am-2pm.
  • A close second is Nathan Phillips Square, 1.5km. Wednesdays, 8am-2:30pm.
  • Closest MyMarket (certified Ontario farmers), at 2km, is Sick Kids. Tuesdays, 9am-2pm.

The next two closest markets are on evenings or weekends, and in residential areas, although each are 2km or more from St. Andrew’s and its dense residential surroundings:

  • Closest evening market, at 2km, is Trinity Bellwoods (the park is closer, but the market is in the northwest corner of the park at Dundas and Shaw). Tuesdays, 3-7pm.
  • Closest weekend market, at 2.4km, is Liberty Village. Sundays, 9am-2pm.

Stay tuned in the coming months for more information on our plans for St. Andrew’s Market in 2011.

MyMarket Planning Meeting

I spent half of yesterday at a planning meeting for this year’s MyMarkets, run by Farmers’ Markets Ontario: several of the farmers showed up, plus volunteers from some of the five markets. We spent an hour on each of the markets, with the farmers discussing what worked and didn’t work at that market, things that they’d like to change, and whether they plan to apply for that market for 2010. Richard Brault, one of the other St. Andrew’s MyMarket volunteers, was there with me to plead our case for farmers to sell at our market this year, and try to get some meat and cheese vendors there.

Although we had the lowest attendance of all the markets last year, it was our first year (all others were in their second or later years), and we also had no meat or cheese vendors. This meant that some people skipped our market in favor of either heading to the grocery store or waiting for the Liberty Village market the following day in order to be able to do most of their shopping in one place.

The numbers of attendees and vendors at each market isn’t correlated, but I would guess that a wider variety of produce than what we had could improve the attendance:

Market 2009 attendance
(from December review meeting)
2009 # of vendors
Sick Kids Hospital 12,000 8
St. Andrew’s 5,800 10 (peak, although 6-7 on any given day was more typical)
Liberty Village 9,500 19
Bloor Borden 13,000 12
East Lynn 18,000 14

The biggest of the markets doesn’t have the largest number of vendors; in fact, the market with the largest number of vendors (Liberty) had the second-lowest attendance in 2009. I think that Liberty was heavily promoted as the place to be, resulting in the large number of vendors who ended up competing with each other: one of the three meat vendors who was there last year skipped the last month because he wasn’t even making gas money; he had asked to shift to St. Andrew’s market mid-season, but somehow that didn’t happen. The key is finding the right mix of vendors for each venue: items requiring refrigeration, for example, aren’t as popular at Sick Kids market, since it is most frequented by hospital staff who are just starting their shift, and don’t have a place to store cold or frozen items until they head home. There’s also an issue of demographics: Liberty Village, home to more hipster singles per square foot than most other areas of the city, saw declines in sales for most vendors, but Kind Organics with their trendy (and delicious) organic greens did booming business there. We have a similar demographic to Liberty, possibly a bit older but just as child-free, so in general need to have smaller packages for the smaller households, and are very keen for organic produce.

The feedback from the farmers at the meeting wasn’t especially promising, but we’re not giving up hope yet. Only two farmers were firmly committed to returning – Bosco Farms, who had the largest vegetable stand and did fairly well last year, and Cedar Creek Farms, who sold out of their cut flowers every week. There were a couple of maybes, including a meat vendor who could also run a sausage-on-a-bun stand. The combination of low numbers last year plus the Saturday date, when we are competing for the farmers’ attention with all the other Saturday markets in the province, meant that many may not be willing to risk another year at St. Andrew’s in order to see if we can make it the success that we feel we can. Applications will be going out from FMO to the farmers soon, and we should know by mid-April whether enough farmers will commit to St. Andrew’s for another year.

Although the volunteers are doing this in order to benefit our community, we have to recognize that the farmers are running a business, and can’t afford to subsidize our market by showing up when they’re not making money: one farmer estimated a stable repeat customer base of only around 60 people at St. Andrew’s each market day. Saturdays are a popular day for markets all over, and if a farmer can take their produce to market somewhere closer to where they live and make more money, their choice is clear. Although larger famers can deploy at two markets on the same day, the smaller ones just don’t have the logistical support to do that. Unfortunately, since we are using a city-owned parking lot that is in use during the week, we can’t switch to a weekday market unless it were to start fairly late in the day. We’d also be competing with the Trinity Bellwoods, City Hall, Metro Hall and Sick Kids farmers’ market (although not all are certified local MyMarkets) on various weekdays. Add to this the proximity of Liberty Village market, both geographically and temporally, some of the vendors heard that people were going to the Liberty market on Sunday instead of St. Andrew’s on Saturday because they could do more shopping there due to the broader range of foods offered.

Farmers are pretty practical people, however, and realize that without the farmers’ commitments, we can’t get the critical mass of customers there for a successful year.

So what are the possibilities for the continuation of St. Andrew’s market?

First, and we hope that this happens, is that FMO is able to find enough farmers to commit to St. Andrew’s for 2010, including meat and cheese vendors. We believe that we have plans in place to bring in more customers this year, and make it a success all around.

Secondly, we could look at some sort of hybrid market, where we have some of the certified local farmers referred by FMO, but also encourage local businesses to participate. The addition of a local meat or cheese shop, if we can’t get those through FMO, would add greatly to the appeal, as would baked goods or other ready-to-eat food from a local restaurant. I think that we should stay food-focused, disallowing flea market or craft stands (although that’s just my opinion), and not bring in any business that directly competes with the FMO farmers in order to maintain the highest standards of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Thirdly, we could look at some way to combine Liberty and St. Andrew’s market. With Sunday, they clearly have the more popular day for farmers, but they have no one involved from the local community, which puts a much larger burden on FMO to provide all the promotion and logistical support. If we brought our kick-ass group of volunteers to bear on a Sunday market, that could really work. However, all of our volunteers are local to St. Andrew’s (2-1/2 km from Liberty, which is a long ways when you consider that we all walk to St. Andrew’s now) and many don’t have cars; supporting a market in Liberty Village just wouldn’t work for many of us.

We’re crossing our fingers and waiting for mid-April to find out which farmers have decided that we’re worth taking another chance on. Think positive thoughts, and hope for the best!

The Little Market That Can

2009 was the first year of the Historic St. Andrew’s MyMarket, and we’re hoping that it wasn’t the last: a meeting tomorrow could decide our fate.

A bit of history: the Historic St. Andrew’s MyMarket is one of five verified (that is, the vendors are verified to sell only their own produce) farmers’ markets in the urban Toronto area. I’m on the local volunteer committee for the market, and worked on much of the social media side of promoting the market. The farmers, Farmers’ Market Ontario (the organizers) and volunteers from all of the markets met in December to review the season; check out my post about that meeting (including the presentation that we gave, below) for more details.

The highlights of our first year:

  • Opened on June 6th, ran every Saturday until October 24th
  • More than 25 volunteers actively involved in organizing events, promoting the market, and helping with market-day logistics
  • 11 vendors, although not all were there every week, depending on the growing season of what they were selling
  • Almost 5,800 visitors over the season
  • 8 cooking demos with local restaurants
  • Banners, postcards, sandwich boards, email, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, blogging and even an Ignite presentation for promotion

We were the smallest of the five MyMarkets, as could be expected in our first year: the more established markets in a family residential neighbourhood have as many as three times our visitors, although we came in at more than 60% of what the trendy Liberty Village MyMarket drew, even though it had 18 vendors including meat and cheese (sorely lacking from, and missed at, St. Andrew’s).

Tomorrow, we have a meeting with FMO and the farmers to talk about this year’s market; I’m headed out to Brampton with one of the other volunteers to talk to them about St. Andrew’s. Going to a market is a big committment for the farmers: they have to pay FMO ($500, I believe) for the season for each market that they attend, which covers the booth space and marketing costs; plus, they have to get themselves and their produce to market every week at the assigned time, rain or shine, and stick around even if a lot of people don’t show up. It’s a tough job, especially when you consider that they’re spending the rest of their time actually producing what they sell. This should be obvious, but if they don’t sell enough at a market, it’s just not good business for them.

We’re all hyped for the meeting, then received an email from FMO two days ago that said “Realize it sounds ominous…not much interest from farmers…it will be an uphill climb.” Eeeek! This is the first that we heard that there might not be enough interest from the farmers in order to have a market this year: we’d been focusing on ensuring that we could get access to the city-owned parking lot where we hold the market, lining up chefs for cooking demos to try and hold one every week, and working at increasing our volunteer base to a solid 30 people. We were a bit taken aback to think that the farmers might not want to come back.

Not much that we can do now except to show up, lay out our strengths in terms of volunteers, what we learned last year and how we plan to start earlier and ramp up faster this year. Stay tuned for more details after tomorrow’s meeting.

MyMarket 2009 Year-End Review

After spending the summer and part of the fall as a volunteer at the local St. Andrew’s farmer’s market, I thought that I’d seen the last of that great group of people – the farmers, the Farmers’ Market Ontario team and the other volunteers – until next year, but I didn’t count on the year-end review, celebration and luncheon hosted by FMO to bring us all together one last time in 2009. The purpose of the day is to review the progress of each of the markets this year, and bring together some ideas of what worked and didn’t work at the markets. Oh yeah, and we got to start the day with Angela Russo’s fresh-baked fruit muffins!

I especially like that they had assigned seats that mixed up the market volunteers, farmers and others so that we didn’t just clump together in our cliques: I was seated with two farmers and a volunteer from another market, none of whom I had met previously, and had great discussions with them.

There are five MyMarkets, each of which is certified by FMO to include only vendors who grow their own produce: East Lynn Park, Sick Kids Hospital, Bloor • Borden, Liberty Village, and Historic St. Andrew’s. The volunteers and/or market manager for each market gave a short presentation:

  • East Lynn Park, taking place on Thursdays from 3-7pm: they’re a big-ish market with 15 vendors, drawing 18,000 shoppers over the entire season, which is roughly the same as last year. They were impacted by the city workers’ strike since some people were under the impression that the market was cancelled during that time; the lack of city-run facilities such as the wading pool meant that less people came out to the park and ended up as accidental shoppers. Since they block off the street during the market, they have issues with moving and setting up barricades; since they’re in a lower-density residential area, they also have more issues with parking for shoppers. They had some good ideas for next years, such as improving the MyMarket website to link to the individual market websites and other social media sites (I’m obviously in big agreement with that); since they don’t have any local restaurants giving cooking demos such as happens at other markets, they’d like to get that started as well. They also see the need for prepared food at the market to make it more of a destination for people. They have great community support, and involve local children’s groups and artists as well as providing community service opportunities for youths to do setup and teardown at the market each week. They also had a partnership with a local food bank, where food that would have probably been thrown out by the farmers at the end of the day went to the food bank. They had a number of green initiatives, such as Not Far From The Tree, handing out information. They also had a lot of child and family-oriented events such as face painting; obviously, this doesn’t work in all locations (such as ours) where the demographics are radically different, but lots of good ideas at work here.
  • Sick Kids Hospital, taking place on Tuesdays 9am-2pm: this was the first hospital in Canada that allowed a farmers’ market to be held on its grounds, driven by their director of nutrition and food services. They just finished their second year; in 2008, they had 10,300 customers over the season, increasing to 12,000 in 2009. They obviously had a lot of traffic from the hospital staff, not just of Sick Kids but of the two other hospitals and many other businesses along University Avenue in the same area. They obviously have some different logistics issues than the rest of the markets, and have to be very cognizant of the fact that they’re set up in front of a very busy, fully functioning hospital, situated on a busy thoroughfare. They have a difficult time hosting events because of the location and the low numbers of volunteers.
  • Bloor • Borden, taking place on Wednesdays 3-7pm. They see this a key community event that takes place in their neighbourhood, where the locals can come out and see their neighbours participating as volunteers, driven by three fairly active neighbourhood associations and supported by two of the local business associations. Just finished their second year, they had spent a lot of money in their first year on print, but found that word of mouth was most effective, as well as the cards that were mailed to homes or placed in local businesses. They combined this with on-the-street volunteers handing out fruit samples and the market cards to remind people that the market is back at the beginning of the season. They had a great idea for their weekly draws: MyMarket market bucks“market bucks”, where the winner of the draw received four $5 vouchers to be spent at any vendor in the market. They also reorganized their layout to have a central social area with a coffee/tea stand run by a not-for-profit organization. They had several product feature days, some of them combined with cooking demos by local chefs, but some as simple as corn roasts or apples and honey. They had 12-13,000 customers throughout the 2009 season.They also took the food leftovers to a local charity, an idea that we should all be thinking about.
  • Liberty Village, taking place on Sundays 9am-2pm. In its 3rd year, this is the probably the largest of the markets with 18 vendors including meat and cheese, as well as several local businesses and restaurants who did demonstrations or otherwise participated, although their attendance is lower than some others at about 9.500 for the year. However, they have less neighbourhood involvement since the residential area in Liberty Village is still growing and likely a very young (and single) demographic that are unlikely to be involved in volunteer activities. The area, however, is growing rapidly which is likely to ensure continued success for the market.
  • Historic St. Andrew’s (that’s us!), taking place on Saturdays 9am-1pm. Colin Mooers, who was instrumental in getting the market starting and current heads up our volunteer committee, gave a presentation with me about our market:

To wrap up the morning, we had a session on what worked and didn’t work at the markets this year. Here’s some of the ideas that came up from everyone:

What worked Areas for improvement
Live music Direct contact with local chefs to get them shopping at the market
Volunteers chatting with the shoppers to create a sense of community Hire local students to assist farmers and organizers at market
“Market bucks” as weekly draw prize and available for purchase by local businesses (e.g., real estate agents) to give to patrons Weekly updates from the farmers of what’s coming to this week’s market for pre-market distribution
Sandwich boards on market day to draw in pedestrian traffic Program to allow local businesses to buy produce from farmers for direct donation to food banks
Cooking demos by local chefs Reduce carbon footprint through farmers collaborating on distribution to markets
Encouraging viral distribution of market information via email Music levels too loud for farmers to have discussions with patrons
Uniform MyMarket branding Competitive price point
Mini markets at places such as Queens Park Greater variety, including cheese, meat, eggs, mushrooms and flowers, to allow for one-stop shopping
Great support from FMO and MyMarket organization Promote understanding of why prices are higher for quality of produce
Profile a farmer each week tied in with weekly product features Too many vendors selling the same product
“Official” start times restricting vendors from selling to early customers
Educate shoppers on preserving fresh food (e.g., freezing) for later consumption

We stayed for a delicious lunch, including Angela Russo’s incomparable apple pie, but skipped out on the afternoon session on “innovative marketing made easy” featuring Lori Colborne.

All in all, a great day that generated a lot of great ideas.

Pan Roasted Duck Magret with Ontario Peach and Coriander Cress

Another great recipe from Chris Zielinski from last week’s cooking demo


1 Quebec duck breast (magret from moulard duck)
Sea salt
Extra Virgin Olive oil
2 ripe peaches
Coriander seedlings

aug 29 market-ultra demo 043I [Chris] like to serve this recipe over an arugula salad with candied walnuts in summer or root vegetable barley in the fall. A nice accompanying sauce can be made by pouring off excess fat after cooking the duck and deglazing the pan with fig balsamic vinegar and add a couple dabs of cold butter to thicken before pouring over the duck.

To prepare the duck, turn breast over and remove duck filet. Gently remove small piece of silver skin with boning knife. (This step is no necessary but it does keep the breast from curling up when cooking.) Turn back over and lightly score skin to allow fat to render more quickly. Heat a thick bottomed or cast iron pan. Season duck breast with salt and pepper on all sides. Place breast skin side down in pan and cook over low heat to evenly brown and crisp skin while allowing fat to render off. You made need to pour the fat out of the pans a couple of times during cooking. After about 8- 10 minutes, skin should be thin and crisp. Turn over and cook for about 5 more minutes on very low heat. Remove from heat and allow to rest 7 minutes before cutting. Slice peaches in the mean time. Slice duck as thinly as possible. Layer slices of duck with peaches. Top with coriander seedlings and extra virgin olive oil.

Serves 2 as a main course, 3 as an appetizer

Chris Zielinski’s Lake Erie Pickerel with Ontario Peach Salsa

Here’s the recipe from last week’s cooking demo


6 boneless Lake Erie Pickerel filets
1 tbsp butter
1tbsp olive oil

3 ripe Ontario peaches
1 heirloom or vine ripe tomato
2 jalapeno peppers
½ tsp ginger
1 clove garlic
12 thai basil leaves
12 mint leaves
2 sliced scallions
Juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
Pinch sugar
Salt to taste

03.salsa.263Dice peaches and tomatoes approximately ½ cm dice. Cut jalapeno peppers in half lengthwise. Discard seeds and stem. Fine dice jalapeno. Chop ginger and garlic fine. Coarsely chop Thai basil, scallions and mint. Place all chopped ingredients in bowl and gently mix. Mix all remaining ingredients in a separate bowl to create dressing. Pour over chopped mixture and season with salt if necessary. Salsa will taste better if it sits for at least 15 minutes before using. Salsa tastes better if it is made the same day as it’s being used.

Preheat a frying pan over medium heat. Add oil and butter. Season pickerel with salt and place flesh down in hot oil. Cook on one side for 3 minutes until light brown in color. Flip over and lower heat to crisp up skin and continue cooking until cooked through. Serve immediately topped with salsa.

Serves 6

Dinner at Tutti Matti

The finished product: baby tomatoes cooked with garlic and basil, served with ricotta

A few weeks ago, Chef Alida Solomon from Tutti Matti gave a cooking demo at our local St. Andrew’s Market, where she cooked baby heirloom tomatoes with garlic, olive oil, salt and fresh basil to make a delicious sauce for pasta. The fates conspired against getting a large pot of water to the boil that day at the market and we weren’t able to enjoy it on pasta, but she served it in small cups with a dollop of ricotta mixed with fresh herbs. Since then, I’ve recreated her recipe at home with delicious results: very easy, and very reliant on the tastes of the fresh ingredients.

I haven’t been in Tutti Matti for a long time, probably since just after it first opened, and her demo reminded me of a great Tuscan restaurant in the neighbourhood with which I should become reacquainted. Luckily, my sister Betty and friend Pat read my blog, and decided to take me there for a pre-birthday dinner last night. It wasn’t at all busy on a Saturday night at 7pm; it did pick up by the time that we left, and I think that they draw a bigger crowd during the week from all the office around there.

The food was divine: we started with their speciality appetizer of the evening, “prosciutto four ways”: the classic prosciutto-wrapped melon, prosciutto wrapped around figs and then grilled, the same treatment for peaches, and a fourth way that completely escapes me right now because the grilled prosciutto-wrapped peaches were so freaking good that I was completely transported to another dimension. This would be so easy to do at home: firm, largish pieces of freestone peaches, probably almost a quarter peach, wrapped in prosciutto then grilled until it starts to crisp on the outside, which means that the peach is starting to caramelize a bit inside. We also shared the carpaccio affumicato, which paired smoked duck and smoked venison each with complementary garnishes: orange and pecorino for the duck, and figs, pine nuts and arugula for the venison. The third appetizer, which I know that we ordered from the menu but is not on the version on their website, was thinly sliced roasted pork with a tuna sauce, which sounds a bit weird but was incredible: the sauce had sufficient acidity to perfectly offset the sweetness of the pork.

For the mains, Betty and Pat both had the pasta special, a lobster ravioli with fresh peas; I tried a taste, and it was lovely. All their pastas are made in-house, and the quality really shows. I had the pappardelle con stracotto, which is wide, hand-cut noodles with pulled brisket, cherry tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs. The flavour was wonderfully rich and complex, the perfect meal for the cool evening that we were having. I’ve had pappardelle with cinghiale (wild boar) in Italy, a very typical Tuscan dish, and this was reminiscent of that in all the right ways; I notice that she has tagliatelle con cinghiale on the lunch menu, which definitely motivates me to head over there for a long lunch some day. We accompanied this with a nice – and nicely priced – Chianti Classico Reservi.

We had skipped the secondi (meat or fish course) in order to save room for dessert; for that, we shared a selection of biscotti (including seriously decadent dark chocolate cookies) and a cheese plate, washed down with vin santo. All excellent.

The service was perfect: our main server was there when we needed him, offered friendly advice when asked, kept the water glasses full and generally seemed to enjoy talking to us. Chef Alida came by near the end of our meal and chatted; I know her from the market, although this didn’t seem to be special treatment for us: she was checking in at most tables to make sure that everyone was enjoying their evening. We were not rushed at all, and spent a leisurely 3 hours or so at dinner.

Open for dinner every day except Sunday, and open for lunch on weekdays. Although their website doesn’t mention it (so you should call to check before showing up with bottle in hand), BringMyWine states that they allow BYOW Monday-Thursday for a $30/bottle corkage – pricey, but worth it if you have an expensive bottle at home that you want to have with your meal.