‘Cause if you think pimping ain’t easy, try farming.

By Taylor Berry

Toronto summers are brief but well-spent; we like to seize them by packing onto outdoor patios, lazing on the harbourfront and visiting the slew of farmers’ markets that pop up in the city between May and September. The appeal of farmers’ markets makes sense: it’s better prices and better quality than stuff in the supermarket, plus you’re buying it directly from the people who made it. There’s nothing like great local food, and we need to support the farmers and artisans who bring it to us. But in a sea of markets, which is the one to visit, and when do these elusive establishments even operate? Here is SheDoesTheCity’s guide to cruising the farmers’ markets. And no, I didn’t mean cruising in that way.

The St. Lawrence Market: The St. Lawrence market is open all year round, and probably has the widest selection since it’s so big. The Saturday Market is the most popular day, and savvy shoppers (read: my parents) arrive at 6am to get the freshest produce possible from Ontario growers and producers. The market is divided into the North and South. The South market always has stands with various foodstuffs and is a great place to pick up breakfast or lunch, whether you want sushi, peameal bacon on a bun or even some dim sum. On Saturdays, the North market is where independent farmers come to sell their produce, pies, bread, cheese, etc. (tip: there is a really nice cheesemaker who gives tasty samples). The market is at Front & Jarvis. If you live in Toronto and haven’t been, hang your head in shame, then go on Saturday!

Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market: The Dufferin Grove market is also really well-known in the city, amongst health-conscious buyers in particular. In the summer, it’s outdoors in Dufferin Grove Park, which is particularly nice, and in the winter it runs inside the skating rink buildings. There’s a huge variety of organic foods, some even grown in the city, and there’s a wood oven baking bread right there in the park! What is better than fresh bread, really? The market runs on Thursdays from 3-7pm.

Riverdale Farmers’ Market: For a smaller market experience in the east end, try the Riverdale Market in Riverdale Park (near Gerrard and Bayview). Riverdale really strives to be an organic market, which is lovely, and the meat that is sold is from free-range animals with a focus on minimum medication. Visit Fun Guy Farm for the best mushrooms in the city. The market is supposed to be a hotspot for downtown chefs, so hobnob and live green at the same time. The Farmers’ Market runs every Tuesday from 3-7pm until October 27th.

Brick Works Farmers’ Market: Buy premium meats, organic produce, teas and fresh homemade cheese at the Brick Works Farmers’ Market. A highlight is Forbes Wild Foods, a Toronto-based initiative that focuses on “wild foods,” things growing naturally, picked by people trained in sustainable harvesting techniques. They sell unique fruit jellies and compotes (barberry, chokeberry, high bush cranberry, stuff I hadn’t even heard of), vegetables (what’s a cattail heart?) syrups, and dry goods like wild rice and sweet chestnuts. The Brick Works Market is held Saturdays from 8am to 1pm at 550 Bayview Ave. Leave your car at home if you can, because parking is limited.

The benefit of farmers’ markets is that you can both eat local and buy local, because they are all over Toronto. If you’re in the west end of the city, check out the Sherway Gardens Farmers’ Market (25 The West Mall) between 8am and 2pm on Fridays. Downtown, there is a market at Nathan Phillips Square on Wednesdays from 10am-2pm. In the east end, try the York Farmers’ Market (7509 Yonge St.), which runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Strawberries are still in season, along with cherries, raspberries and blueberries, soon to be followed by melons, peaches, pears and apples. When you frequent these markets you’ll start to see your summer divided up by the seasons of fresh fruit and vegetables, and you’ll become more in tune to where your food comes from. As Martha Stewart would say, “it’s a good thing.”