Until last week I had never questioned why, several years ago, one February morning before 9 a.m., I was able to buy a warm, round, and crusty loaf of walnut-raisin bread in the University College foyer. A table had been set up and baked goods, in the form of highly aromatic bread, buns, and baguettes, were strewn across its surface in a number of linen-lined wicker baskets.
It was only this term that I realized that what I’d previously imagined was a fluke bake sale or fantastic serendipity was in reality some incarnation of U of T’s own farmers’ market, an event that has reappeared this year on campus on a weekly basis, every Wednesday from 2:30 to 5:30 at U.C., 15 King’s College Circle.
Walking over the western lawn of University College two weeks ago, I came across a conglomerate of tented picnic tables, the largest covered in fresh produce, others flaunting locally produced cheeses, others still selling honey or baked goods.
Having an indecent fetish for cheeses and all things dairy, I made the Cheese of Canada stand my first destination. All the cheeses sold here are produced by local, independent Ontario farmers and dairies. Each piece comes pre-cut or in small rounds, prices ranging from about $5 to $12 per item, which generally seems to include 200 to 300 grams. The selection includes a variety of sheep, goat, and cow cheeses, most pasteurized, some aged for a while, a few quite mild (including a surprisingly delicious [for a mild] hard sheep’s milk cheese I bought for about $7).
The artisanal baked goods (baguettes, crusty loaves, buns, and sweets) are delivered by St John’s Bakery and Riverside Foods, almost all of it certified organic. The produce table is filled with locally grown greenery supplied by the Kawartha Ecological Growers, a group comprising a number of Kawartha Lakes family farms. Depending on the week, they sell a mixture of fruits and veggies, eggs, meat, maple syrup, and prepared jams and chutneys. Finally, Bees Universe also provides honey, royal jelly, and other beekeeping products, ranging from cosmetics (skin creams) to candles.
More information on the sellers and their products is available here.
A number of other farmers’ markets can be found around the GTA, though many end for the season within the next couple of weeks. On the east side, the Brick Works Farmers’ Market takes place on Saturday mornings, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., offering free shuttle transportation from Broadview subway station. Tuesday from 3 to 7 p.m. is market day at Riverdale Farm. Farther west, there are weekly markets in Trinity Bellwoods Park on Tuesdays from 3 to 7; in Dufferin Grove Park on Thursday evenings; and in Liberty Village on Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Farmers’ markets are a great way to support small, independent farmers and manufacturers, giving you access to products that might otherwise be mostly inaccessible through large grocery chains. They also provide consumers with a way to support locally grown and produced goods, helping to cut down on transport emissions, an inevitable symptom of international shipping. The best news about U of T’s Farmers’ Market is that it’s going to be happening year-round, making its way inside U.C. when the cold weather picks up, meaning that we have access to fresh Ontario cheese all year round.