Can a weekly farmer's market succeed in Scarborough? Some say yes


Toronto has many weekly farmer’s markets.

Scarborough, though, has none. The University of Toronto Scarborough campus hosts a market, but far less frequently, with an event scheduled every month except for December.

A market in Albert Campbell Square, close to the Scarborough Town Centre mall and the former borough’s Civic Centre, didn’t last. It shut down in 2012.

A new partnership, Red Onion Events, thinks it can do better. It wants to restart the Albert Campbell market next spring.

“I know there’s markets here that have failed before, but there is interest,” Margaret Antoine, Red Onion’s research lead, said last week.

A big piece missing from the plan, though, is what Scarborough residents want and will support in a weekly market.

Only a handful of people came to the Civic Centre on a rainy Wednesday night to offer opinions to Antoine and Jennifer Forde, Red Onion’s other partner.

One was Iain McLeod, who lives in the nearby Glen Andrew neighbourhood and said the square is unsuitable, because it can’t be seen from any street.

“If you don’t have that, you’re dead in the water,” he said.

McLeod’s community association was involved, several years back, in a plan called Span McCowan which proposed covering McCowan Road north of Ellesmere Road.

That stretch of McCowan, not far from the square, is notoriously hard for pedestrians to cross. Community groups wanted a park built on top of it, complete with a building patterned after the St. Lawrence Market downtown.

McLeod said he knows Scarborough people who go to St. Lawrence Market on weekends.

“If we can create that here, they won’t go downtown anymore.”

Red Onion, he said, would be better off staging the market on Progress Avenue or at Thomson Memorial Park.

Antoine and Forde disagreed. There are more condos around Albert Campbell and the city of Toronto has pledged to move some employees to the Civic Centre.

Scarborough has the population to support a market if marketing for it is better, they said. Just by the numbers, Forde added, “we should be OK.”

Red Onion (asking people to write to will hold another public meeting, but decisions on the project must be made soon. Forde said registration for vendors will start in January.

“In a blink of an eye, it’s going to be here,” she said.

Antoine and Forde organized a Malvern farmer’s market in 2018 which had a bi-weekly schedule and didn’t continue this summer.

The experience helped them find a set of committed vendors, said Forde, who wants the Albert Campbell market to involve local farmers and have a distinctly local flavour.

People may come for concord grapes and butter tarts, but they may also want a samosa, or a patty or some Greek food, she said.

“That’s Scarborough. That’s ours.”

Jean Newallo, a resident who remembers the earlier market in the square, said it takes time to build up popularity.

The new market, she said, “just has to start good,” have variety, and appeal to “all different nationalities.”

The UTSC market is bi-weekly, run by the university and continues over the winter as a monthly event at The Meeting Place on campus.