My Food Story Part 3: The Big City (Toronto)

My Food Story Part 3: The Big City (Toronto)

My love of food spills over into every aspect of my life including my writing and editing work. I’d just like to share a bit of that story with you. This is part 3 of a 3-part series. You can also read part 1 and part 2 here.

 

The origins of a food sleuth

In my last months in Edmonton I became a food sleuth. My grocery store visits got longer and longer. I examined each piece of produce, the sign about it describing its origins and price, and then the sticker on the fruit to see whether that matched up with the sign. I couldn’t take my then boyfriend/fiancée along to the grocery store. He didn’t have the patience for this meticulousness. But I had to know more about where my food came from.

I went to all sorts of grocery stores – large chains, specialty stores, organic grocery stores, neighbourhood grocery stores, and bulk food stores and examined the produce and the food in various aisles. I began to realize how far away my food came from – even in the summer when most things are in season. I got even more frustrated when I went home to Niagara in the early summer and I went to the grocery store looking for local strawberries and all they had was California strawberries from 1000s of kilometres away, and I knew the farmer just down the road, less than 2km away, who grew tasty, juicy strawberries.

 

Seeking out farmers’ markets in Toronto

So when I moved back home to Toronto, I started a new routine. We lived downtown and I could walk everywhere, so I scouted out my options and realized that there were farmers’ markets all over the downtown core of Toronto on different days of the week.

 

 

I made weekly treks to city hall, where the closest market was. My mom lightened my load by buying me a granny cart to fill up with produce. I still took almost as much time as I had at the grocery store back in Edmonton. I circled the market twice before I decided which farmer I was going to buy from. I learned at the St. Jacob’s market that not all farmers’ market vendors sell local produce. I wanted to be sure that I was buying directly from the farmer who grew the produce and not some middle-person who bought their produce from somewhere else.

I filled my cart to the brim and wheeled it back home, the fruit bouncing over each break in the sidewalk. I kept checking behind me to make sure that nothing had fallen out.

 

Discovering local Toronto fruit

The Toronto Farmers’ Market Network helped me to find the markets closest to me. It was on their page that I made another even more exciting discovery –  fruit grows even closer to home – fruit grows in people’s front yards and backyards all over Toronto and Not Far from the Tree picks it and shares it. They were just starting up when I moved to the city.

 

 

          

 

I followed their progress closely, just waiting for things to align so I could attend my first fruit pick. I signed up for the email list and heard about trees to pick at Trinity Bellwoods just west of where I lived. It was a year before I made it to one and before Not Far from the Tree was in my neighbourhood, but then in each following year I became more and more involved.

 

 

In the first year I volunteered as a “Gleaner,” where I joined in on picks in my neighbourhood. There were so many people in the city who wanted to be a part of the picks that were happening in each neighbourhood that it took a while before I could attend one. The following year, I was so pumped to be a part of things that I signed up to be a “Supreme Gleaner,” where I led fruit picks throughout my neighbourhood. My favourite part was riding the cargo bike. One time, the volunteers and I had filled it up with over 200lbs of apples and I got to ride it over with the bursting load to Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre and hand over all the beautiful Parkdale apples to their community kitchen. They were so excited to receive it and some of the community members helped me to unload the apples into their walk-in fridge.

 

 

In my third year of volunteering for Not Far from the Tree, I was the Communications Intern. I worked with the staff and to met all sorts of volunteers and people involved in the community. I interviewed the picking coordinator, Marc Michalak, another volunteer, Leah Bobet, and the coordinator and the cook at the community kitchen for Sistering (both named Carol). Carol, the cook at Sistering, told me of how she was so excited to receive the fruit from Not Far from the Tree each time there was a delivery so that she could provide fresh fruit for all the women at the drop-in meals.

I have learned so much since my early days as a “food sleuth” in Edmonton and I’ve been getting to know so many great people in my community who are passionate about food including, chefs, bloggers, food writers, and those who advocate for the social justice aspects of it to those who enjoy cooking simple family meals at home. I’ve shared just the beginning of my story and my love of food here and I look forward to sharing so much more with you.

Thanks for stopping by. Please feel free to drop a note. I’d love to meet you too.

 

 

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About Avery Peters

Sharing stories. Sharing food.

I express my creativity in the kitchen. My inspiration comes from being outside—in the forest, on the farm, by the ocean, or going to the farmers’ market. I love to share food with family and friends.