Councillor Mary Fragedakis sows seeds for new farmers' markets city-wide

Toronto could soon get more farmers' markets after the economic development committee voted Monday at city hall to set up a working group to streamline the application process.

City council committee agrees to push for more streamlined approval process

In the last 10 years, the number of farmers' markets in Toronto has grown from 10 to 35, according to economic development committee member Coun. Mary Fragedakis. (David Horemans / CBC)

The number of farmers' markets across the city may be about to blossom, thanks to an initiative by a Toronto city councillor.

The economic development committee voted Monday to set up a working group to streamline the approval process that small businesses have to go through to set up a farmers' market, which would increase the number of markets city-wide, said Coun. Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29 Toronto-Danforth), who put forward the motion.

Coun. Mary Fragedakis' motion to set up a city agency to help businesses establish more farmers' markets was passed by the economic development committee on Monday. (CBC)

"I don't have a magic number, but there's so much we could be doing," said Fragedakis. "People need access to good food. They need it to be close. They need it to be fresh."

In the past 10 years, the number of farmers' markets in Toronto has grown from 10 to 35, she says in a letter to the committee.

But "many markets trying to establish themselves are forced to navigate different city divisions and processes depending on the type of market proposed and the space they intend to occupy, without the reliability of a consistent
streamlined process."

That's tended to deter entrepreneurs from attempting to establish new farmers' markets, she said.

'Walk for food rather than drive'

The job of the Public Food Markets Working Group would be to help those entrepreneurs navigate the system more easily, she said in an interview Monday afternoon.

Anne Freeman, of the Greenbelt Farmers' Markets Network, welcomed the committee's decision. She said in Barcelona, no one lives more than a 10-minute walk from a public market, and she'd like to see a farmers' market within walking distance of every home in this city.

"I would love it if you could walk for food rather than drive," she said. "Markets do wonderful things for cities."

The economic development committee's decision still needs to be approved by city council, at its meeting next month.