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Eat & Drink

The Wychwood Barns Farmers' Market

Posted by Guest Contributor / December 6, 2009

Wychwood Barns Farmers MarketWalking into the Artscape Wychwood Barns "Green Barn" Farmers Market is like being a kid in a candy store. Local farmers, bakers, and producers of cheese, honey and jams sell fresh food and treats every Saturday morning, making it a one-stop-shop for all kinds of cravings. Grocery shopping has never made me more hungry.

Walking up to the big beautiful barns, I was instantly approached by market regulars and swooped up for a Wychwood trivia-filled tour. For the people who spend their Saturdays shopping here, it isn't an errand - it's an event, and the whole family's coming.

"This is Ted from Thorpe's Organic Produce, he is the king farmer of the market," said Jack, pointing out a fellow regular of the Barns. "He's barefoot here in the summertime, and he sells the best produce."

Green Barns Farmers Market torontoTed races and hops around his three overflowing tables of fresh cabbage, scallions, and tomatoes, while continuing his friendly debate with regulars, about last week's carrot crop.

It also seems that foodie culture starts young at Wychwood Barns. I'm schooled by eight-year-old Joe, who tells me about the best cooking methods to make meals from goods bought at the Barns. My jaw drops as I listen to this keen youngster, who tells me about last week's dinner his family prepared using a "naturally sourced pistachio-crusted Georgian Bay white fish."

Just outside Wychwood's wooden doors sits Paul, the famous baker from St. John's Bakery. He chortles as I pout, looking over his eight big empty baskets. No buns for me. Then my new baker-friend gives me the hush sign and hands me a massive loaf of bread from under the table. It feels soft and crunchy in my hands. I immediately start musing about sandwiches.

Wychwood Barns Farmers MarketWalking into the barns, it's hard not be struck by the industrial enormity of the place - not to mention the smell. Most farmers markets I frequent are outdoors, but at Wychwood, all the goodness is sold under one yummy roof. The market is set up in no particular order with honey sold next to fresh pasta, sold between prosciuttos, next to fish sandwiches, next to cheese. Some of the purveyors supply in no particular category as well, selling large spreads of pies, carrots, jam, cured meats and potatoes - all on the same table. It seems the thing to do at Wychwood is to find your favourite stand and let that family hook you up with whatever you're craving.

One such family could easily be the clan from Highmark Farm in Cookstown. I meet Marcus and Damian, brothers and partners at the farm. Their table is laid out with soups, cheese, heaps of fresh produce and a wide range of meats - pork, wild boar, chicken, sheep and rabbit. The brothers tell me about Highmark's organic farming methods, where they spray garlic concentrate and liquefied copper to on vegetables instead of pesticides - a self-taught trick that keeps the produce more safe and natural. Standing at their table, I am also given soup samples and lessons about their family's Italian and Greek background. After prying myself away, I found they had sneaked some fresh mint-seasoned Halumi cheese into my bag, along with their Mother's recipe for frying it with homemade ouzo pasta.

Wychwood Barns Farmers MarketMy tummy rumbles as I head over to the honeyed aromas at Karen's Kitchen - a table that appears to have almost sold out in the first couple hours. Karen is a woman in demand, and bakes about 350 gluten and sugar-free loaves, muffins, tarts, bars and buns per week. All the treats are made with "her own special flour blend of arrow root, millet, rice, bean flour and quinoa, and are sweetened without sugar."

"I've just got a good oven," shrugs Karen, "and my husband does the shopping."

I try her carrot, pineapple and coconut muffin, topped with caramelized cinnamon honey. It is a surprisingly sweet and fluffy breakfast confection. She sends me home with a maple, strawberry rhubarb loaf, wrapped in pink paper. It keeps my big pocket warm, and smells just like Fall - with a little hint of the coming holidays.

After shaking off my pastry coma (and many muffin crumbs), I visit the Toorshi Foods pickle table. I go for the spiciest pickled pepper on the table and then go straight for my water. Although it's only their second year at the Barns, the Toorshi family have been pickling veggies for over 50 years. Today the clan keeps busy pickling up 200 jars per day.

Wychwood Barns Farmers MarketI spend another hour or so, meandering about about the market, introducing my palette to more delicious treats and chatting with the vendors. Leaving I promise that yes, I'll be back next week. And I go home full and happy.

Writing and photography by guest contributor Kate More.

Check out this video from earlier this year, featuring city councilor Joe Mihevc at the market:

Discussion

12 Comments

Elle Driver / December 6, 2009 at 11:02 am
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Ooooh, I've always wanted to go to this! It's a 10 minute walk from me. But considering that it's open from 8am to 1pm, my boyfriend and I always get up too late on Saturdays to make it.

Anyone know if this is a year-round event?
A. replying to a comment from Elle Driver / December 6, 2009 at 11:20 am
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The market is open year-round, though from November until winter melts away it moves inside the "covered street" barn. Definitely worth hauling yourselves out of bed for.
Tom / December 7, 2009 at 09:04 am
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My wife and daughter went there last summer and were kind of disappointed. We were expecting something along the lines of a St. Lawrence Market, with a really great and eclectic mix of food.

The food was good, and we picked up a couple of things. But honestly, and I know I sound like a neo-con for saying this, but the prices are so high that it's not going to replace our weekly trip to the grocery store for food.

And we were also a little put off by seeing a lot of really well-off people who thought that they were saving the planet by buying a few vegetables. It felt like the whole thing was an excuse to make rich people feel better about themselves.
Cari / December 7, 2009 at 10:22 pm
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I love this market! My husband and I go as often as we can - though realistically it's only once a month or so. A staple buy for us is the coffee - Kurtis Coffee, which is fair trade and organic, and about $12/lb - less than the other brands we've found of similar quality.

Tom - it certainly can be expensive, but it isn't always. If you go during the summer, you'll find all sorts of cheap and local produce. Sure, the homemade pickles and organic breads aren't going to be save you any money, but the produce is often at least comparable to grocery store buys, and it's nice to know where it's coming from.
millygirl / December 11, 2009 at 03:45 pm
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so the market is indoors now, correct? Are the hours still 9 to noon? I'm thinking we might take a drive this weekend and check it out but not sure I can arrive by noon. Anybody know if perhaps they stay open longer during the holiday season?
chris / December 12, 2009 at 06:34 pm
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nice article except for people like me who have never heard of the place...HOW ABOUT AN ADDRESS...
Capt Obvious replying to a comment from chris / December 12, 2009 at 07:13 pm
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Click the first link of the article for the website. Address and map is right at the top.

Cheers
Roman / November 20, 2010 at 09:38 am
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The Vendors at Wychwood barns have relatively uninteresting fare at very high prices. I will not go back. I don't know what caused this problem but it is a fact.
K Hamilton / December 7, 2010 at 08:50 am
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I do basic shopping in Kensington Market. Wychwood Barns on Saturday morning adds quality to my table -- the freshest, most tasty greens in summer, no-chemical sweet potato fries cut & ready to bake, Trinidad squash, Toorshi pickles (yes!), a slice of mushroom-and-cheese polenta, half a dozen Ambrosia apples, a pot of Irish soup, eggs from a Mennonite farm, grass-fed beef, fresh Red Fife noodles, a small jar of blackberry-pear jam ...

Even in the brokest week I find ten dollars for two or three treats that add more to my sense of well-being than any chocolate bar, bag of chips, or soda pop possibly could.

And it adds community to my life. These are all -our- folks, they live down the street or up the road, people like you & me, who have made something and done the organization to bring it to market, creative people with dozens of skills, standing in front of you at the tables, no middlemen, no buffer between you and real production, talking easily about what they've done and how and the challenges and rewards. I learn something every time I go, it's an extraordinary opportunity.
St. Clair West Community / August 28, 2012 at 09:46 am
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Find out more about the St. Clair West Community:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/St-Clair-West-Community/182855901816744#!/pages/St-Clair-West-Community/182855901816744
meaghan / April 4, 2013 at 10:29 pm
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hi, i was hoping you could send me your information on becoming a vendor.

thanks,
Meaghan
Deb / January 19, 2014 at 03:25 pm
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when is the small electrical repair event/booth? Is there one planned for this winter?

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