No fall harvest as popular market edged out by condo in Toronto's east end

Instead of celebrating the fall harvest, people in Toronto's east end are saying a fond farewell to a weekly farmer's market they say is being pushed out by a pending condo development.

2nd generation farmer James Forsythe looking for new venue for produce stand

James Forsythe has to close his farmer's market on Queen Street East as a condo development moves in. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

Instead of celebrating the fall harvest, people in Toronto's east end are saying a fond farewell to a weekly farmer's market they say is being pushed out by a pending condo development.

Forsythe Family Farms has been selling Ontario-grown fruits and vegetables all summer from a parking lot near 897 Queen St. E. 

Rob Baker says there aren't any other local veggie stands in the neighbourhood. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

"It's sad — customers are just frustrated, and it sucks because there's not much in the area that has good food, except for the big grocery stores," said James Forsythe, who helps run the venture. "There's a need for a market down here."

Forsythe had secured the location from a friend who has been running a gym in the double garage at the back of the lot.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Forsythe and friends have been rolling up those garage doors and selling produce.

2nd business pushed out this summer

But come the end of September the development that closed Jim's Restaurant in July will also mean the end of the market.

"I think it's a little bit sad. There isn't really an established fruit stand in this neighbourhood at all," said customer Rob Baker. "Loblaws isn't in walking distance and this market is the only thing like this in the whole neighbourhood."

Area resident Sarah Richardson has been coming to the market with her young daughter Nyla, ever since the new mother went on maternity leave.

Another development is slated for one street to the west of the market as well. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

While Richardson said that it's good that the developments that have been approved are only about five storeys high and fit into the neighbourhood, losing the market is an unfortunate consequence.

"The only place to get fresh vegetables that's walkable for me will be Shopper's Drug Mart, which is not desirable."

From market to home delivery

Sitting in the back of a cube van peeling garlic, Forsythe explains how selling produce is an extension of his family's nearly 30 years in farming.

That's when a woman approaches and gives him some bad news about another possible location.

"I just spoke to them on the phone and they said there is a licensing problem," she said, as another venue for the market falls through.

The Forsythe family has been farming for 30 years. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

Forsythe said his customers have been helping him to find another location, but without any luck.

"I have a really great support system in that sense," he said. "But no leads yet; it's pretty hard."

In the meantime, Forsythe has started a small-scale home delivery system, where he delivers to about 20 customers.

But he's still hoping that he can find a new venue so his market can set up again on Queen Street East next year.

"I love it down here, this is my favourite place to come down to."

A document filed with the City of Toronto shows what the development could look like. (City of Toronto)

A development application on the City of Toronto's website indicates that Daniels Corporation is looking to build a six-storey, 23-metre building at 897 Queen St. E. The development would include 73 living units.

The existing building is slated for demolition in late October, Megan Aird, a spokeswoman for Daniels said.

Aird said that Daniels has suggested the market set up in Regent Park, which is about two kilometres away.

Toronto's east has fewer condo developments than the west end. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

And once the new condominium is built, "one of the key amenities will be gardening plots for residents to grow herbs, vegetables and flowers," she said.

A representative for Ward 30 Coun. Paula Fletcher encouraged Forsythe to call their office.

"I am positive we can find another location with them," Susan Serran said.


Kenny Sharpe


Kenny Sharpe is currently reporting in Europe as part of the 2022 Arthur F. Burns Fellowship for Foreign Correspondents. Originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, he reports on daily news with a focus on the environment, mental health and politics.