On Sunday morning, I found myself merrily picking zucchini in a farm that was situated between an industrial park and a gas station.
The week before, I was chatting with someone about local food and what farmers markets they liked to visit.
“Have you been to Fresh City’s U-Pick farm on Sundays?
I hadn’t. The farm was located at Downsview Park. I had never been and struggled to picture what an organic farm would look like in the city of Toronto. But they pressed on, convincing me that the u-pick farm was more relaxing and more inspiring than any farmers market.
I doubted that we were in the right spot, and was sure that Google maps had led us astray. We parked our car in front of a large, dull corporate building. The sun was bright overhead, beating down on the black asphalt, rolling out waves of heat. But peeking out from behind the building was a row of greenhouses, and beyond that, stretches of organic produce growing lush in the summer sun.
Open, with barn fans blowing, we wandered through the greenhouses, the sweet grassy smell of tomato plants perfuming the air. The greenhouse was transformed into a jungle; the tomatoes were tresseled on wires reaching up to the curved roof of the greenhouse, creating a green canopy. Just like that, we had managed to find a living, thriving farm in the middle of the city.
A tanned farmworker in bucket hat greeted us with a chirpy smile. She seemed relieved to take a break from the heat and walk us to through the crops that were growing and get us started with harvesting our own veggies. She armed us with shears, a trowel, and a wooden bushel basket to help us with our harvest.
It was hot, sunny, and dusty. But it felt lively and grounding to dance long the rows of vegetables, noticing the beauty and weight of the ripe summer vegetables. We picked what we wanted, enjoying the search to find what was the best in our hearts.
Lingering under the shade of the garden shed, we unloaded our bushel of vegetables and fresh flowers. We chatted idly while the farmer counted and tallied up our selections. The total was a better value than what’s available at the farmer’s market stalls. We went away with dirty fingernails and a bag overfilling with the freshest produce, along with a bouquet summertime flowers.
Check out Fresh City Farms for yourself, you’ll feel the tender patience and understanding of the farmers as you meander through the tidy rows of vegetables. It’s a wonderful way to stock your kitchen for the week, while also connecting and appreciating the bounty of ripe, local food that summertime brings to Toronto.