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Markets are about more than food

by Hilda Nouri

Food markets in Toronto take on all different sizes, shapes, smells and sights. There are markets more oriented towards creating a community space, ones that offer a venue to sell homemade and prepared foods, others that feature vendors who are farmers and artisanal food makers and so much more. Markets are vibrant public spaces that can create interaction, knowledge and new connections with foods, sounds and people. While the presence of markets in Toronto has been on the rise in the past few years, there has also been an increase in public interest in knowing more about our food system and in taking steps to reduce the distance our food takes to get to our tables. We can’t help but wonder how these spaces can also help to further a sense of community, how they can be sites of change and learning between groups of different backgrounds and how they can create nourishing experiences with new and already known foods.

Green Thumbs’ Market Experience

For the 2018 growing season, Green Thumbs has had the pleasure of selling our garden bounty, bi-weekly on Wednesdays at the Taste of Regent Park Market in the Regent Park Big Park Space, as well as once a month on Tuesdays at the Cabbagetown Farmers Market nestled in Riverdale Park West. Our time at the market has been an avenue for us to train and involve youth, volunteers and summer students in the process of what it takes to run a market booth from harvest to sales and a chance to develop skills in numeracy, customer service and market vending. Being a part of a market has also been an opportunity for Green Thumbs to connect with other community groups doing work in the neighborhoods we operate school gardens and programs, as well as a way to break the ice with community members and residents about what we have growing in our gardens, how they can get involved and what they would like to see in their communities.

What can you find at the Green Thumbs market booth?

Green Thumbs grows all of our market produce in 4 school gardens across Regent Park and Cabbagetown, which include Rose Avenue Public School, Winchester Public School, Sprucecourt Public School and Nelson Mandela Park Public School. Our gardens at Winchester and Sprucecourt are currently in the process of being organically certified and follow organic growing practices. This year we have amped up our food production and are offering an assortment of greens, vegetables, herbs and fruits, including items such as dinosaur and green curly kale, mixed salad greens with edible flowers, lettuce heads, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, herbs, dried flowers and herbs for teas, wildflower bouquets and our highly-rated fresh herb infused lemonade! We take pride in mentioning that all our foods and products come from a few blocks away of where we are selling and that are gardens are grown with the help of students, teachers, volunteers, community members and staff.

What we hope for markets in the future

Being a part of markets allows Green Thumbs to involve ourselves in the Regent Park and Cabbagetown communities, get the word out about all the great work we are doing and support our fundraising for our organization which runs as a non-profit. We hope that more opportunities are made for non-profit and community groups who grow their own food to participate in markets and that steps are taken towards increasing accessibility and diversity in markets to involve a larger proportion of individuals with diverse backgrounds, through actions such as introducing market dollars to community members with low-income, reaching out to immigrant farmers to sell their produce and provide training to groups who are new to running a market stand. Green Thumbs believes that creating market spaces which welcome diverse vendors, consumers and visitors is work that is part of the larger food justice movement, in shaping a food system that can offer fresh, nutritious, affordable and culturally-appropriate food with respect and value to the well-being of land, workers and animals. We hope that markets continue to be a strong force in connecting consumers and community members with our food system and act as thriving spaces for individuals to feel a sense of belonging and pride about their communities.

Come say Hello to Green Thumbs on our market dates in August! August 15th and 29th, 5-7 pm at the Taste of Regent Park, Dundas E. between Sackville and Sumach, and August 21st at the Cabbagetown Farmers Market, Riverdale Park West, Winchester and Sumach Sts.

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