Local Food, in from the Cold
By Amanda Kirsten Grant
The colder winter weather may have arrived, but that’s not stopping the farmer’s market from providing the Danforth with fresh, local food.
Since their first full season in 2007, the Withrow Park Farmer’s Market has been providing Danforth residents with fresh, local produce and food products. The market was created by Roberta Stimac, in response to a need for greater access to local produce. Stimac believes that the Danforth area needs a place to buy the produce grown by local farmers and the food products made by people in this very area.
“The vendors are all hard working people,” says Stimac of the more than 20 summer vendors. This is the first year that the market has been open in the winter season. The idea behind opening the market for the winter came from vendors who were looking for a space to sell their products good all year-round, such as bread and pastries. It is not always easy for these vendors in the winter months, when produce growth is down and the winter weather makes it impossible to sell outdoors. That is why Stimac turned to the Danforth Church. On the corner of Danforth and Bowden St., it is an older structure that has a lot of character and is a familiar landmark in the Danforth area.
The winter market has been running on Tuesday nights, from 3pm to 7pm, but business has not been as good as expected. “We wanted to build an afternoon market,” says Stimac, “but there aren’t enough customers right now to sustain it. It’s darker out, and colder, and kids are in after-school programs. We wanted the community to see the winter market as an afternoon community space, and hoped it would be used as a dinner option. But the vendors are not making money.”
Unfortunately the winter market is not bringing in customers the same way that the summer market has in the past. Part of the problem could be the cold weather and the sun setting earlier each day. Another issue could be that Danforth residents are just not aware of what the winter market can offer. Farmer’s markets are known for their fresh produce, and so customers might feel that there is less offerings. Stimac points out that although there are less vendors offering produce, they adjust the products on offer seasonally.
Instead of the summer fruits and vegetables that the Danforth is used to, the winter market has a variety of food products available. Bakers from the area use the winter market to sell their homemade breads and pastries. While there are limits to growing locally for the winter season, the market features a local farmer who grows organic produce in a greenhouse, making fresh produce available all year. The market is also a place for local farmers to sell products such as Ontario eggs and cheeses.
Even though the market isn’t drawing in as big of a crowd as usual, Stimac emphasizes that the market is really all about community. “The Danforth really feels like a small town; it’s on the east side of the Don River, so it’s almost a separate little community,” says Stimac. “It has that small-town feel, and there is a sense of value. We’re not a commercial enterprise. We are a small, local, independent market, and we want to really emphasize the community feel.”
With little to no competition in the area, the winter market is the place to go for a community-oriented food experience. They also run a kids craft table, making the market friendly and fun for children. The warm atmosphere of the market makes families feel welcome and part of the community while shopping.
The market is closed for two weeks for the holidays but will be reopening soon and likely returning to the hours of their summer market, Saturdays from 9am to 1pm. While it is expected that the market will reopen on Saturdays, Danforth residents should visit the website, www.withrowpark.ca, for more information and official times and dates for the market’s reopening. You can find the market in the Danforth Church.