Toronto’s farmers’ markets

David Bezmozgis has lived in Toronto since he was six, but he still hasn’t got used to the winters

Having never been a huge fan of winter in either my native Latvia or my adopted home of Ontario, I really look forward to the delights of the Toronto summer, when we reacquaint ourselves with our friends and neighbours. My preferred way of doing this is by visiting one of the farmers’ markets that have sprouted across the city. I don’t go so much for the food as for the sense of community, the farmers’ market being our urban equivalent of the village market day. For the visitor to Toronto, the market offers a unique view of the city.

Two blocks from my house, on the west side of Toronto, are the Artscape Wychwood Barns, century-old streetcar hangars that have been converted to house numerous artist studios, gallery spaces, and not-for-profit organisations as well as farmers’ food stands. The market runs all year round, but is at its best when the weather warms and the stalls spill out from under the glass roof and wind around the complex. The atmosphere is lively. Kids race through the aisles and clamber on the adjacent playground and paddling pool. There is a dog run, a beach volleyball court, and live music – Dixieland jazz or Ashkenazi klezmer, something ideologically compatible with the Foodsmythe’s artisanal sheep cheddar and Delish Kitch’s gluten-free scones. Toronto is justifiably celebrated as a multicultural city, and the offerings at the market reflect it. You can get a jar of Toorshi’s Armenian pickles for $7.75 or a plate of Momos, traditional Tibetan dumplings, for $5.

On the east side of the city are the Brick Works, another reclaimed industrial space (some of the original brick kilns and rail tracks have been preserved.) Operated by Evergreen, an environmental charity, the Brickworks are larger than the Barns and, along with the farmers’ market, folksy musical acts, and food vendors, also have a large children’s garden and an exhibit to sustainable urban living. Ironically, the Brickworks are tucked between the Don Valley Parkway and a ravine so most people are forced to drive there. (Shuttle buses do run from Broadview subway station.) An ambitious visitor, however, could have breakfast at the Wychwood Barns, bicycle along the tree-lined Kay Gardner Beltline, through historic Mount Pleasant Cemetery, and, having burned all those calories, emerge at the Brickworks for lunch. (Bike rental through Bike Share Toronto.) I recommend it. Bicycling is the best way to see Toronto in the spring, but that’s a different story. 

David Bezmozgis is an award-winning novelist and playwright, whose book, The Betrayers, is set in the Ukraine

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