Every day thousands of commuters pass by the Ontario Food Terminal as they speed along the Gardiner Expressway. And each day, thousands more eat fruit and vegetables that have passed through its gates.

The OFT has stood at the corner of the Queensway and Park Lawn Road in the city's west end since 1954, but few outsiders have ever had a chance to see inside.

That changed Saturday when the terminal at the heart of Toronto’s food distribution network opened its doors — for the first time ever — at an open house.

Quick facts:  Ontario Food Terminal

  • Opened in 1954 and is 40 acres in size.
  • Is the only food terminal in Canada, the third largest in North America.
  • Has 22 warehouse tenants, 50 office tenants, 400 farmers market tenants and more than 5,000 registered wholesale buyers who use the facility.
  • Has a central cold storage of more than 100,000 square feet where state of the art cooling allows for storage on site for both selling groups.

 

The OFT is a hub of activity around the clock but particularly in the early morning weekday hours, before most Torontonians have risen from their beds.

It’s during this time that buyers arrive to pick over truckloads of produce for their stores and restaurants. The action is frantic as busy buyers try to get the best produce at the right price. Some have called it Toronto's stock exchange for fruit and vegetables. 

"It's just a hustle and bustle. It's organized chaos," said farmer Paul Tiveron, who comes to the OFT every morning to sell produce he grows at his farm in Leamington.

More than five million pounds of produce move through the terminal every day.

"There's people, there's vehicles, everything's flying around here in the morning," he said.

Proceeds from Saturday's open house will go to FoodShare, a charity that supplies schools with fresh fruits and vegetables.

With files from CBC's Colin Butler