Introduction to Why Farmers Markets video
This is truly a story of legacies, passing food knowledge from generation to generation, and from country to city to country again.
We follow Anna Murtaugh’s 20-year journey from downtown Toronto where she learned to prepare food and create markets with her mother Elizabeth Harris to Ontario’s rocky Muskoka region where she learned to grow food with Dianne Kretschmar.
Anna and Dianne at the
Riverdale Farmers Market in Toronto in 2002
Anna met her husband Adam on Dianne’s farm, and in 2012, they headed east to New Carlisle, Quebec, and to the homestead of his grandmother. As teachers and part-time farmers, they are raising three children as well as various farm animals and tending a voluptuous garden that makes them almost self-sufficient in food.
Drawing on the legacies of Dianne’s farm and of Elizabeth’s markets, they were co-founders of a farmers market that brings anglophone and francophone farmers and vendors into a local park in the summer.
Anna and customer
at the Gaspé Farmers Market in 2018.
Farmers markets have been proliferating in urban centres like Toronto, reconnecting consumers to producers, in response to the distancing and alienation of a population that has little sense of where their food comes from. They become gathering places both for farmers to connect with other producers and for local residents to recreate a sense of community.
But there are many obstacles to farmers markets becoming truly accessible to all communities. As Anna concludes “It seems like organic food is only accessible to people who either have a lot of money or put a lot of importance on what they’re eating.” This also means that large markets like Toronto’s Brickworks appear awfully white, not reflecting the multi-racial population of the city. An anti-racist critique of urban agriculture has led to initiatives such as another Legacies partner, Leticia Deawuo, building Black Creek Community Farm to serve the racialized Jane-Finch neighbourhood.An onsite Harvest Share market is open to local residents on an honour system (link to BCCF video). New immigrants to the neighbourhood bring their agricultural knowledge from their countries of origin, creating a unique fusion of food practices on the farm.
“Ontario still imports around $20 billion dollars of food, and 50% of that could be produced locally,” notes current Brickworks manager Marina Queirolo. But structural constraints abound, including government’s prioritizing of large-scale industrial agriculture while offering few supports to small organic farmers. The process of organic certification is an expensive and bureaucratic undertaking that many organic producers cannot afford or navigate.
This video serves as a catalyst for critical discussion about the history of farmers markets, and their potential and limits in the current food system. The facilitator’s guide raises questions, suggests field visits, and offers links to other videos, websites, and readings
It is dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth Harris, Anna’s mother, who is honoured with a plaque in the Brickworks market that she founded.
Dianne Kretschmar sums up the values of farmers markets: “It’s about connections. I think that’s the whole secret to good health, really, to connect people with their food. Elizabeth always said that I was her farmer, not only me but all kinds of other people. When you sat down to dinner at Elizabeth’s table, she knew individually the person who produced everything on the table.”