One of the great things about living in Ontario is the abundance of fresh, local and seasonal produce available in the summertime. The Davisville Village Farmers Market is a great nearby market to visit to pick some up this season. The market is open every Tuesday from 3pm to 7pm, from mid-May to early October. It’s part of the Apple Tree family of markets, run by founders Lesley Stoyan and Chris Trussell. We spoke with Lesley to learn more about how this community market has grown and what’s in store for this season!
Credit: Apple Tree Markets
So Lesley, when was the market first opened, and has it grown since?
We started our first market at Yonge and Eglinton 10 years ago. So, we’re actually in our tenth season there now. It started off as literally a one-off project. We were asked to coordinate a community event by (former City Councillor) Karen Stintz. We did a one-off market because local foods were just becoming popular in the Toronto community and public market spaces. It was so successful that we decided to keep it going as a regular, weekly thing. So in 2008, The North Toronto Farmers Market opened. It was dubbed The Apple Tree Market. We’ve opened three markets since then. The next market that we opened was Ryerson University, and the Davisville Village Farmers Market was our third. So it’s grown. Those three are our every season, staple, marketplaces but we’ve got over twenty pop-up markets that go on throughout the city, throughout the year. We also run a fresh food program with the TDSB (Toronto District School Board).
Wow, you’re making the rounds! Who does the fresh food program serve?
(It) predominantly serves Davisville Junior Public School which is at Yonge and Davisville. It’s a farm fresh fare snack program — so that the kids can have fresh fruits and vegetables everyday at school.
What a great initiative! Many of our our residents send their children to that public school. The program is free for the kids?
It’s subsidized by the TDSB and parents have the option to contribute, if they’d like, but every child gets it. Davisville Village has a very significant, low-income community. A lot of new Canadians making under $25, 000 a year reside here, so Davisville qualifies as a high needs school, so they get a subsidized food program. That’s actually why we started the Apple Tree Group. As I said, it started in 2008 as a one-off, fun project and we’re now a fully registered non-profit and our mission is to build community around food initiatives and family-friendly events. The farmers market is just a small amount of the project work that we do per week. We try to have outdoor, free public events predominantly in Davisville Park. We do the “movie night in the park”, which happens every September. It’s a free movie for everybody to attend. We build a skating rink in Davisville Park that everyone is able to come out and enjoy in the winter as well. We also do a Pumpkin Parade. We’re doing something called the Apple Seed and Kernel Festival this year, which is a big apple harvest festival, so kids can come out and have a fun day. There’s farmers and bouncy castles and everything is free to ensure that the neighbourhood, the people that can’t afford it, can take part in it.
Credit: Apple Tree Markets
What a wonderful and fun way to reach out and engage with the community! What is your role at Apple Tree?
I’m the co-founder, with my husband (co-founder, Chris Trussell). It’s honestly just the two of us that do 90% of the work. We have a handful of contractors that we bring onboard when it gets to be too much. We hope to be able to grow that number so that we can continue to grow and keep spreading out the volume of work. My focus is mostly on family health education. Around the farmers markets we do a lot of things. We offer free recipes and educational workshops, we teach cooking classes in the public schools. At all of our events, we often have fresh food and food tastings. I curate the menu. I studied holistic nutrition in school, so I do a lot of the programming ideas and my husband, Chris, does most of the executive direction, the planning, the logistics, the operation, that sort of thing.
Credit: Apple Tree Markets
Sounds like a small but mighty operation! How many vendors serve the Davisville Village Farmers market?
In the Apple Tree Family of vendors, so that’s anybody who’s part of our organization, I think our membership is at sixty-five vendors this year. That means whenever we do an event, we can pool from our family of vendors. For the Davisville Market I think we’re just shy of 40 vendors this year.
And what types of products do they sell?
The market really represents the complete bounty of the Ontario harvest. In May we have the early spring vegetables. This year it happened quite early, we had asparagus, strawberries pretty much right out of that. We’ve got all the greenhouse, year-round vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes, peppers – all the things that you can now have year long. You can actually have strawberries now, year long. There’s something called an ever-bearing strawberry! As the season progresses, you get into the more seasonal stuff. So, rasberry season just ended. Raspberries are pretty well done. Peaches just came out, corn just came out, again, a little bit early because of how much rain we’ve had. We’ve got a full gamut of everything that is Ontario, plus a few unique products that people may not know about. One of our vendors carries more of the exotic Ontario fruits and vegetables – which is really fun to showcase, especially when we get back in the school year. There is something called a northern Kiwi, that is grown in Ontario. We get to showcase that…
Then we’ve got wonderful, ready-made foods. There are a large percentage of shoppers that want grab-and-go, so we’ve got soups and tacos, pre-made salads and bottled juices, hummus, fresh pastas and olive oils, and fresh breads, fresh cheeses. All the things you want to pick up so that you don’t have to make dinner.
What a bounty! What is the season for the Davisville Village Market?
We usually open in the second week in May, and we close right before Thanksgiving.
Do you host any special events that close out the season?
A bunch of things, actually! We’ve got our movie night in the park – that’s always the lead up to the end of the season – which is on September 22nd. The Seed and Kernel Festival is the next day, on September 23rd. Then on the last day of the market we do a couple of things. We have the New Vendor Showcase. There are so many young businesses that want to get into selling food, but they may not have the capacity, they may not have the volume, the stock. We give new chefs and new producers or new farmers a one day time when they can come and introduce themselves to the community. We always do that on the last day. Then we have a big harvest party when it’s all over!
Sounds like a lot of fun! We can’t wait to come by and dig in. Thanks for speaking with us, Lesley!
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