Written by: Mozhgan Milkarizi
Withrow Park Farmer’s Market is a great Saturday destination! The sunshine was dazzling ever since I arrived at the Market. Having prepared my papers and pen, I headed to some of the Vendors to chat with them. Although it may appear to be a nerve-racking experience for some people, I should say you cannot imagine how nice and friendly the people and atmosphere was.
I began with St. John’s Bakery, the producer of Toronto’s best organic sourdough bread. Mandeep told me he was working there due to the compassionate mission. For them, it is more than bread, it is about connecting with people and building community. They believe that their bread shapes the community.
Next, I stopped by Henry of Pelham’s booth. Due to my curiosity, I asked Chris what makes people come here and buy your products while they can go to the stores!? His response was the fact that people can try wine here while enjoying the amazing Market community and other favourite vendors. The young man occupying the stall stated that he believes that everyone at Withrow Park Farmers’ Market is very nice and helpful.
In front of the Henry of Pelham, the Zero Waste Station held my attention and drew me toward it. The first thing that came to my eyes was: “Wash a dish, save the fish” This booth, part of the Markets’ Reduce Waste mission is promoting Zero Waste at the Market and encouraging patrons to responsibly sort and dispose of their waste. The tent collects dead batteries and markers from community members, provides reusable bags, and other materials. Moreover, they significantly reduce Waste by offering coffee mugs and reusable plates, bowls, utensils for all food items purchased and consumed at the Market. Upon chatting to many vendors, I figured out that they have had a key role in ensuring that Zero Waste is in fact achievable. Most vendors were asked why they think Withrow Park Farmer’s Market is attractive for people even for the vendors, and many concurred that the Zero Waste initiatives are what set this Market apart from the others they may participate in. I would call it the heart and pillar of the market!
Afterward, the beauty of Home Sweet Farm’s flowers enticed me and as I approached the tent a bubbly woman named Ranjani, greeted me. She has been growing flowers since 2015. An environmental engineer who has loved farming decided to finally be one in her retirement. She acquired her knowledge of farming by reading books! One of the advantages of her farm is its organic status and as an eco-conscious vendor, she truly appreciates Withrow Market for their efforts. I asked her what the inspiration behind her farm’s name which she responded, “I want my farm and my home, both be sweet.”
After spending some time near beautiful flowers, I walked to the next tent and met another lovely woman.
According to Leila at Kendal Hills Farm, this market is full of kind and friendly people and the volunteers are helpful as well. She believes that people really want to know where their food is coming from and support their local business. Their pasture-raised fowl and other livestock, as well as wild-harvest gourmet mushrooms, are of excellent quality and bring peace of mind due to their certifications.
I then stopped by the Beaches Reduces tent and asked a few questions about their activities. Adrianna, a dedicated woman who was keen on educating patrons about their beach clean-ups, outlined their goals and community initiative to reduce single-use plastics and packaging so as to help people live a more mindful and sustainable lifestyle. She explained that one of the things she has been doing was going to talk about businesses in the beaches area and encouraging them to cut down on plastics. She said that this market has been a good place to raise awareness about a Zero Waste lifestyle. I wondered how she got involved in these environmental efforts; thus, I asking her what motivates her? And she expressed her love for nature and her passion to ensure that all children grow up with the same opportunity to fall in love with the outdoors as she did.
A chalkboard sign stating: “We are a small family business without a storefront.” caught my eye next. While speaking to the vendor at Natural Japaneats, he told me more about his story of how his business came about.
After living in Canada for nearly 20 years, he wanted to introduce Japanese treats to the community. Participating in a few local markets around the city, he exclaimed that Withrow Market had a great atmosphere which he found very nice. He worked at three different markets, but he declared that compared to others, the community is a highlight here, the volunteers are supportive and the manager is really nice. He expressed his happiness in taking part every Saturday for the past few months and wished that the market could be permanent even in the wintertime.
Next up, Moo Free Beverages, where the representative talked about the family-oriented atmosphere of the market and friendly people here. Regarding the size of the market, she said it was perfectly intimate but with a good variety of vendors. Noting that she wished she could have more time to go around and grab other great goods from her fellow vendors during the market. She added that they are in favor of the zero-waste philosophy and try to emphasize this in their business practices as well. By providing customers with the opportunity to buy plant-based beverages in glass bottles that can be returned and reused, they are doing their part to create a sustainable future.
Mandi Pies, which is a customer favourite, was the next vendor I stopped by. With a menu offering five different fillings her pies were going fast. Although she had a long lineup of hungry customers she had the time to tell me that she believed her blend spices from Zimbabwe are what made her pies so unique.
Finally, I stopped by Murray’s Farm and Organic Vibes. They both have a great sense of humour. The lovely lady at Organic Vibes happily shared with me the story of how both Vendors met at this Market four years ago as Vending neighbours and have been friends ever since then. I joined in the laughter and joy as she relived the story stating, “Murray hates vegetables and that is why he sells pork and eggs but we make the perfect pair”. Organic Vibe’s sells, Callaloo (also known as Amaranth), carrots, corn, eggplant, and other organic vegetables.
Overall, what I have felt during my first visit to Withrow Park Farmers’ Market was a family-oriented community in which people are kind, spend quality time interacting with one another and most importantly, they care about their health and environment. There is a lot to do for people of all ages. While enjoying live music, people danced and really enjoyed themselves. In addition, other activities such as participating in free yoga sessions and completing cool crafts at the Kids’ Crafts station further make this Market a place to enjoy your Saturday mornings.
In an accessible location off the Danforth, Withrow Market and its variety of Vendors and their delicious products is a must before the season end!
About the author: “Mozhgan Milkarizi who has always strived for learning and self-development. Mozhgan is an adventurous urban planner who is passionate about nature and cities. She believes through sustainable urban design, we can transform our lives. She is studying her post-graduate certification in project management in addition, Mozhgan has a thirst for adventure, adrenaline, and sports. She is a professional paraglider pilot who likes to take risks and has travelled to many places in order to discover and explore different landscapes and sceneries from the sky.”