MARKET RETURNS TO THE ANNEX THIS SUMMER
By Victoria Prouse
“You shop differently in a farmers market than a supermarket,” says Gus Sinclair, former chair of the Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) and co-founder of the Bloor-Borden Farmers’ Market. “In a farmers’ market, people pause; they stop over tomatoes and talk about how the kids are doing at school.”
Afternoons of food, fun, and fellowship will return once again to the Annex. June 6 marks the kickoff of the weekly farmer’s market. The Green P Parking Lot at Lippincott and Borden streets will be transformed into a dynamic neighbourhood meeting place, hosting about a dozen farmers with local goods.
Over 30 farmers’ markets are interspersed throughout the city. However, the Bloor-Borden Market is unique. It is one of only five in Toronto that have been granted the “MyMarket” certification by Farmers’ Market Ontario. While vendors at conventional farmers’ markets are able to resell goods from the food terminal, acquiring the “MyMarket” certification mandates all goods sold are produced by the vendors themselves.
Farmers wishing to sell their goods at a “MyMarket” must undergo a stringent certification process. Sinclair emphasizes the importance of this certification as a guarantor that the items purchased at the market are fresh and of the highest quality.
The market’s return to the Green P will be greeted with significant fanfare. However, its fate was less than secure earlier in the year. In the past, the market had benefited from $5,000 in funding from “MyMarket”—funding Sinclair describes as ensuring a “soft landing” for guaranteeing the market’s welfare. This year, however, the funding regime was withdrawn. Fortunately, contributions from the HVRA, the Annex Residents’ Association (ARA), and the Harbord Street and Bloor-Annex business improvement area (BIAs) have alleviated this deficit, thereby enabling the market to cover its administrative and promotional costs.
This investment affirms this market’s significant contribution to community vitality—both socially and economically. Sinclair identifies the relationship between the vendors and surrounding businesses as inherently “symbiotic.” Anne Freeman, project coordinator at the Toronto Farmers’ Market Initiative (TFMI) shares Sinclair’s perspective. “There is a spinoff benefit in terms of spending in the neighbourhood,” Freeman says. “It’s usually a very complementary effect.”
Since its inception in 2008, the market has transcended its role as a hub for produce in the Annex. Rather, Sinclair, envisions it as a cultural, community-building, and commercial enterprise. Musicians contribute to the lively atmosphere, and the Children’s activity tent ensures visitors of all ages look forward to a trip to the market.
The activities at the Bloor-Borden market represent a commitment to community stewardship. It has the largest volunteer base of the five “MyMarket” farmers’ markets in Toronto. Additionally, the market hosts “Lemon and Allspice,” an initiative by Common Grounds Cooperative that provides adults with developmental disabilities an opportunity to gain skills by selling coffee and baked goods.
As Freeman states, “The great thing about Farmers’ Markets is they give people a reason to come out and meet their neighbours.” Indeed, every Wednesday from June 6 to Oct. 24, the vibrant heart of the Annex will be found on top of the asphalt at Borden and Lippincott. It is a “must-see experience” for anyone who wants to see life as it is intended to be lived: wholesome food from healthy soil, an amiable and welcoming atmosphere, and a community successfully working together for a common cause.