Toronto Farmers Markets, with their offerings of cheap produce and fun city-excursions, are at risk of becoming fewer and farther between thanks to a potential vendor fee hike. Friends of Trinity Bellwoods rep Carolyn Wong gives us the scoop about her petition to help save farmers markets, the vendors who inspire her, and why Trinity Bellwoods farmers market is unique.

How will Toronto farmers markets be affected if the fees increase?
Farmers markets do not run a profit.  They break even.  It’s not about making money, it’s about supporting local farmers, the economy and bringing fresh, local produce/meats etc. to the people. There are basic operating costs (i.e. user fees) that are covered by season stall fees paid by the farmers.  When operating costs rise, it can go nowhere else but to increase the farmers/vendors stall fees.

How can people prevent this from happening?
People can help by signing the petitions located at farmers markets, or online.  Spread the word, we need to go viral with the petition.  Email your Councillor and Mayor Ford asking them to not to let any increased costs to farmers markets be remotely considered – it’s a food source.  In fact, they should be facilitating markets by either reducing or eliminating our user fees all together.  Here’s a question; Why are farmers markets even being charged for something that is part of the larger Food Policy of the City?  Plain and simple, you don’t target our food source to get rid of a deficit.

Women are the largest minority group in agriculture. Are there any female vendors at the market in particular who have inspired you in any way?
Hanna Jacobs of Matchbox Garden & Seed Co. is an inspiration.  She went from a small urban backyard garden to farming (with Eric Rosencrantz) at the Living City Campus on Kortright in Vaughan.  Through her perseverance and hard work she’s be able to establish her farm and supplies chefs, restaurants and now a CSA – all the while being a single mom.  No small feat.   Hanna’s been with Trinity since our inaugural season (2007) and I’m so impressed at what she has accomplished.  I am happy to say that our market has had a tangible impact on her success.  Contact her for more info:

What’s special about Trinity Bellwoods farmers market that might set it apart from any other in the city?
I support them all and we all respect each other’s differences.  That’s what makes them individual and unique in themselves.  Farmers markets are no cookie cutter things – they all began in individual ways.  But, if you must, I’d say that TBFM has the most park-like setting of them all.  The amazing canopy of trees, the surrounding green space keeps it open, cool and people/kid friendly i.e. gatherings on the grass, children can run free as parents have a clear visual on them, shade from sun and shelter from a little rain, easily accessible.  It’s also the prettiest because of the park setting. The location in the park is not off Queen Street West, which actually works better because it gets people to take a stroll off the beaten track through our lovely park to get to the oasis of the market.  The atmosphere is relaxed, no pressure, non-partisan and friendly.  It’s been commented to me that our market has the most interaction between farmers/vendors and patrons that they haven’t seen at other markets, which is exactly the point.

Who are some of the most unique vendors in the Trinity Bellwoods farmers market?
They all are great, no two farmers/vendors are alike no matter how similar their products are.  Just like no two same cuts of meat or vegetable can be the same.  Though, we are a modest sized market so there’s not much duplicity, at least in prepared foods.  With the farmers, there a perfect balance to keep it viable for them all.

What is your favourite park summer activity?
Sitting under the organizer canopy at the market on a sunny, warm day – with no humidity – the light is dappling through the trees and dancing over the market.   Watching a stream of happy patrons shopping, chatting, mingling, friends and acquaintances coming by to chat with me and the volunteers.  And the farmers/vendors tables laden with a cornucopia of product that slowly disappear as the hours go on.  I go home content and elated at the end of market days like those.

~ Kait Fowlie