We are witnessing an annual phenomenon. Starting around May, hungry Canadians emerge from their long, winter culinary hibernation suffering from root-vegetable fatigue and sticker shock contracted by shopping for expensive, freakishly big, blemish-free fruits and veggies dispatched from far away at great expense to the planet.
Sick of strawberries with more air miles than a politician on an all-expenses-paid foreign junket, we gather our eco-friendly shopping bags—unbleached hemp, if you please!—and hit the farmers’ markets. We descend, locus-like, on the markets, voracious for whatever is local, seasonal, artisanal and above all, fresh. With a take-no-prisoners attitude, we gleefully slap down a fiver for a dozen eggs laid by happy hens, or a crisp 20 for a juicy, chemical-free, elk ribeye—a little something for the ‘Q!
From May to October, for many Canadians, that’s what the weekends are all about: hunting and gathering. But, depending on the market—its location and degree of gentrification—shopping this way, can be something only the privileged can afford.
Happily, nature hates a vacuum, and often, it’s in the empty spaces—here, between the wealthy and not so wealthy—where people come together to create amazing solutions and build vibrant communities. Guerrilla gardening, community clean-ups, food drives and pop-up farmer's markets.
Opportunistic and creative foodies are setting up markets in the most interesting places: abandoned lots, unused parking spaces, city parks, restaurant patios, anywhere folks—bakers, country farmers, city gardeners, even wild food foragers—can set up a table and sell their own produce to the neighbours.
These markets are grassroots. They are orchestrated and stocked by folks who come together over a love of real food and a desire to bring high-quality, local produce to the inner city.
In Toronto, a shocking and shameful number of people live miles away from proper food shops. Often these people, many unable to afford a car, do their family’s grocery shopping at convenience stores, leading to an incredibly unhealthy diet of instant noodles, chips and pop.
Pop-up farmer's markets fill a real need. It’s not just about another fun, foodie activity for those who can already afford the best, it’s about bringing goodness into neighbourhoods where goodness is in short supply. It’s also about bringing people together, creating a sense of community and giving kids a healthy start.
These markets aren’t necessarily sanctioned by the municipality, but mostly officials turn a blind eye, especially if the market is conducted on private property and as long as no risky items—meat, dairy, perishables—are being offered.