Bringing a new level of accountability to the Saturday Farmers Market
Evergreen Brick Works creates a new verification model to build deeper engagement with farmers and the community.
Published on May 22, 2019
For more than a decade, the Saturday Farmers Market at Evergreen Brick Works has been providing fresh, local food to Torontonians. Over the years our market has become a hub in the community where visitors can meet and shop from farmers whose products are local, sustainable and ethical.
“Farmers markets are a unique opportunity to shake the hand that grows your food.”
Evergreen's Public Markets Manager, Cameron Dale explains that "one of the biggest benefits that a resilient food system brings to cities is the opportunity for accountability and transparency between farmers and consumers who are now apprised of what they are eating and how it is being grown."
The local food movement stemmed from people caring more about the food they eat and how it arrived on their plate. Through opening doors and sharing farming practices with buyers and the local food community, knowing where your food came from has become easier and more transparent.
Across Toronto, we have also seen verification methods grow in popularity as people want to be assured that the food they eat is organic, local, ethically produced, or all of the above.
There are different ways farmers can verify that their food is what they say it is. Some certifications, like the MyPick Certification from Farmers Markets’ Ontario, looks at how and what farmers grow, what sort of technology they use, or in the case of Organic & Biodynamic certification, what inputs are being used and how crops are grown and managed. However, achieving these certifications can be too costly or otherwise inaccessible for a variety of reasons, acting as barriers for some farmers. As a result, while many of the farmers at our market carry a third-party certification, others do not.
To help build a stronger relationship and even more transparency among farmers, shoppers and the general market community, the Brick Works team worked with the Toronto Food Policy Council to create a new, user-friendly model of food verification. In 2018, the team introduced it to farmers at the Saturday Farmers Market and worked with 18 farmers who opted-in to try the method themselves.
Bizjak Farm, pictured here, was one of the 18 farms that participated in the new food verification model in 2018.
The participatory model involves farmers visiting neighbouring farms to meet their fellow market vendors, view what’s growing and what farming methods are being employed, and report back to Evergreen Brick Works’ market team with their findings. By taking part, the visiting farmer gets a chance to learn more about their peers work, meet like-minded people in their industry and help to build a stronger community amongst those engaged in local food.
Through this model, we put trust in our farmers and give them the opportunity to be recognized for their work, moving beyond the standard verification models that may not work for every farm.
After our first year of implementing this process at the Saturday Farmers Market, we look forward to engaging new farmers and making this standard procedure among our market community throughout 2019.
Farmers' markets are local hubs. They also serve as a network of like-minded professionals working together to make local food accessible to those living in urban environments.
As locavores and champions of the local food movement, we encourage you to learn as much about your food as you can. Next time you visit your local market, take a moment to speak to your farmers. Ask them about their growing methods or what they love about modern farming, or simply introduce yourself and thank them for providing fresh and sustainable food to your community.