Farm Friday: Nathan Phillips Square

Name: Nathan Phillips Square Farmers’ Market
Location: The Square
Date & Time: Wednesdays, 10:00am – 2:00pm, June 2 – October 13
# of Booths: 20-25

Walking into Nathan Phillips Square always has a different meaning for people. Whether they are headed to work, to get married, or for an event in the square, it changes daily. Throughout the summer, Nathan Phillips Square is home to an outdoor market on Wednesdays, accompanied by musical events, such as Poetiks, who took to the stage for the final Fresh Wednesday’s showcase this week.

While City Staff ate corn-on-the-cob, drank a fresh smoothie, bought flowers, fruit or produce, they were welcomed by the sound of poets speaking on a number of topics from Jesus to young love to racial discrimination, as well as songs from the featured artist, Motion. While the actual market is designed to work its way along the concourse in front of City Hall from the West to the East entrances, the stage and prepared foods fill the courtyard in the centre of the square.

With the amount of foot traffic that usually fills the Square, plus those who came especially for the market or the featured artist, the market vendors were kept busy all morning. With a wide range of products, from meat and bread from Domenic’s to giant sunflowers or produce from Andrew’s Scenic Acres,  shoppers are given a chance to pick up essentials for the week ahead from approximately twenty vendors. One of the more popular booths was Willow Tree Farms, serving up corn and tomatoes, as well as organically certified produce.

The market is in it’s 20th year at Nathan Phillips Square, organized and run by Ontario Farm Fresh, an organization aimed at educating about farming in Ontario, as well as educating the public on the effects of buying local and getting people out to visit farms across the province.

With the changes to the square in the upcoming year it can almost be guaranteed that traffic to and through the market will increase. Plans for a Peace Garden and sufficient seating areas will only enhance the market experience, where shoppers can relax to survey their purchases and snack on a peach from Bilski Farms before the walk to the subway, home, or back to work.

The events stage is set up directly in front of the long fence touting the square’s plans for revitalization. In front of the stage are chairs, picnic benches and other areas for people to express themselves. Literature For Life, the organizer behind Poetiks, set up a refrigerator magnet-type booth, where people were welcome to choose from two tables worth of words with Velcro on the back that they could adhere to the wall. Also, a classroom-sized chalkboard was laid on the ground, complete with boxes of chalk, to allow anyone to pick up some chalk and create a work of art.

Art Starts assembled a giant canvas for a mural started from some key phrases from the spoken word on the stage that turned into a collaborative masterpiece. Art Starts strives to engage at-risk youth to work with established artists in creating art while boosting confidence.

While the Fresh Wednesday’s summertime programming is finished for the year, it will start up again in July of next year aiming to support arts and culture from across the city. In conjunction with the markets on Wednesday, the City has also organized a Thursday event, Tasty Thursday’s, where local chefs prepare foods purchased from the market and teach attendees cooking methods and the importance of buying locally grown produce.