A Toronto farmers’ market, the first of its kind, provides more space for black and Indigenous food cultures

Alvis Julien, co-founder of Deeper Roots Farm, displays his products at the Deeply Rooted Farmers’ Market in Toronto during the August long weekend. The farm offers foods from the African diaspora.Photography by Ramona Leitao/The Globe and Mail

When Camille Mayers, a queer black chef based in Toronto, started selling American, Southern and Caribbean dishes at the city’s farmers markets, they noticed they were the only black vendor. “It was very uncomfortable,” Mx said. Mayers.

Mx. Mayers said black people have always been entrepreneurs and have grown and sold their own food. Their mother, who sold earrings and hosted parties, is a prime example of this tradition.

That’s why the Toronto chef thought it important to launch the Deeply Rooted Farmers’ Market, the first market of its kind in Toronto to exclusively feature Black and Indigenous vendors. The market officially launched on May 8.

Since its launch, the market has been a vibrant atmosphere for people of all ages. While local musicians provide live music and children play in the games section of the market, others discover the stalls offering dishes from the African diaspora. It’s a combination of savory, spicy, and sweet dishes, like Mayers Fried Chicken Waffles, Chef Marty Alexander’s Jerk Pork Sandwiches, Niagara Samosas Peach Samosas, and the classic injera with misir wat, a dish Spicy lentils, from Bethlehem Mitiku. Ethiopian-style coffee, homemade lemonade iced tea, and fruit smoothies are also available.

Fresh produce harvested from local farmers is also sold in the market, including amaranth, sage and peppers sold by Charles Catchpole from Gitigaanes, red callaloo and kale from Willie Mae’s Pharmacy and garlic scapes , radishes and Swiss chard from Julien Alvis and Cady de Ferme have deeper roots.

Deeply Rooted Team Members: Founder Camille Mayers and Métis Board Members Maria Simonelli and Tanika Alexander.

While originally meant to be a farmers market just for black entrepreneurs, Mx. Mayers realized it was just as important to provide the same opportunities to Indigenous sellers. Through their research, Mx. Mayers realized that lack of accessibility to land and food was also a constant problem for indigenous communities. “I didn’t feel good talking about land disparities on land that didn’t belong to us to begin with,” they said.

Black and Indigenous communities also have unique experiences compared to other people of color. “The effect of slavery, genocide, systemic oppression that still has a huge impact on our people just can’t be lumped in with everyone,” Mx said. said Mayer.

Mx. Mayers hopes the market will encourage more Black and Indigenous entrepreneurs to start their own farmers’ markets to assert their presence in the city’s food and business industry. They also say it’s a good way to generate economic opportunity and keep that wealth within their communities.

“It’s important for people who live in these diverse cities who see people like us, who talk to people like us, to know a bit about our culture as well, and not just the sad stories you read about in books. story”, Mx. Mayer added. “We are more than that. Our cultures are so much more beautiful than all the sadness we have been through.

The Farmers Market is held every Sunday until September 25 at Dieppe Park in East York.

Charles Catchpole, an Anishinaabe chef and farmer, has peppers, sage and other produce from his urban farm in North York, Gitigaanes. Its name means “little farm” in Ojibway.

Mya Beaudry, an 11-year-old Algonquin vendor from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, started Kokom Scrunches when she was nine years old. Visitors discover handmade scrunchies.

Gray Mayers enjoys a frozen treat from the No Krumbs food stand.

Bethlehem Mitiku and her daughter prepare Ethiopian dishes. She makes her dabo, an Ethiopian bread, from A to Z.

Deeper Roots Farm sells produce like Jamaican callaloo, Swiss chard, Swiss chard, lettuce and radishes.

The market will continue to feature Black and Indigenous vendors on Sundays until September 25.

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