Stackt market


Spearheaded by area locals Matt Rubinoff and Tyler Keenan, Stackt Market will transform the lot of a former smelting plant that has stood vacant since 2014 into a multipurpose public space, with the majority of the expected 130 containers devoted to pop-up retail space. The rest of the stacked volumes will be open to cultural, arts and events programming. It’s a temporary endeavor – Rubinoff and Keenan have a two-and-a-half-year lease to use the 9,290-square-metre plot of land before future plans of turning it into a park get started – but one that promises to breathe new life into a neglected area of the city.

They’re offering companies and organizations flexible lease lengths and adjustable spaces, such that “anchor tenants” who have agreed to stay for the whole two-and-a-half year period will exist alongside a constantly evolving ecosystem of pop-up shops, service providers, and brands.

Market 707 at Dundas and Bathurst Sts. is already using shipping containers to house small businesses just south of Toronto Western Hospital.



As some of you know, I believe that the era of mission-driven farmers markets has just begun and that how we view our work needs to expand to help the farmers and buyers that we work with. In that mindset, we should begin to examine the idea of public markets entirely devoted to restaurant/grocer (then wholesale) sales of local goods, curated with the same intention and mission by those of us that currently manage retail farmers markets.
In order to do that, we should learn from wholesale terminals such as this one in Canada. I found a couple of things within this article about the Ontario Terminal fascinating. My notes are in italics.

In less than 40 seconds, DiLiso has placed his order: cabbage, cipollini onions, bean sprouts and bok choy. Na enters the data on a hand-held digital device then, with a mutual nod, moves on to another client, leaving DiLiso to gather up his vegetables.
That’s how deals are done at The Ontario Food Terminal, the giant U-shaped building on 16 hectares off the Queensway in west Toronto: friendly, no-nonsense, fast.

(Notice the ability to enter sales on a hand held device?)


DiLiso and his small crew criss-cross the market to find sellers they trust who have the best deals on vegetables.
“It’s all about relationships,” DiLiso says.

(I dunno- it sounds like it is as much about price?)

Ontario Terminal story

Nine Meals Away from Anarchy

My brilliant colleague Wayne Roberts adds some thought-provoking ideas to the New Year. Now I understand how the four systems of food: production, logistics, nature and cities could be the cause (any or all of them) of a serious crisis and a real panic. So once again, how can markets and direct marketing farmers work to ensure a safe (uninterrupted) food supply?

Nine Meals Away from Anarchy – Environment – Utne Reader.

Report Season is upon us

I visualize many of you working long hours this week gathering data to finish end of year reports-as your faithful food system friend who is also working close to her candle on reports, I salute you.
Maybe we need grant report songs to keep us focused and get us in the mood of writing them just like holiday songs?
(Jingle Bells tune)
grant reports, grant reports
writing all the way
oh what fun it is to think
of ways to explain and say.

However, it does put me on the road of thinking about evaluation and ways to share information. We all know about qualitative and quantitative measurement, but let’s dig even deeper if we can, when we can. What was the transformation that came from our work? Is there a way to illustrate success with a picture or a snippet of an audio interview? Maybe a field plowed and ready for planting? A quote from a new shopper or a farmer who learned a new skill?

Recently, I ran across these evaluation pages from Community Food Centres Canada which are quite simple, engaging and yet useful. Here’s one:

Community Action

Take a look at how they describe evaluation too:
Evaluation page

Growing For Markets article on Toronto’s World Crop Project

I heard about this wonderful collaboration when I was there in April working with the Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network. I decided to do an article to share it with the U.S., so where better than Growing For Markets? You’ll need a subscription to get full access, but you’ll thank me for this magazine if you do….

MY GFM article on World Crops

Tips, Tools and Telling the Story: Evaluating Community Food Initiatives

September 13, 2012 12-1pm EDT

On September 13th, Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) is hosting a webinar on evaluating community food initiatives. The webinar is geared at program managers, funders and other practitioners who are already engaged in evaluation or have a basic understanding of evaluation and are looking to explore evaluation topics in greater depth. Meredith Davis, CFCC’s Research and Evaluation Manager, will describe the process that CFCC went through to create its own national evaluation strategy, including successes, challenges and lessons learned along the way. Topics to be explored include: creating a theory of change, building an evaluative culture, developing indicators, developmental evaluation (DE), social return on investment analysis (SROI), evaluating in a respectful and dignified manner, designing effective evaluation tools and common pitfalls of evaluation. The last 15 minutes of the webinar will be set aside for group exploration.

When: Thursday, September 13, 2012 12-1pm EDT

Where: Your Computer –

How Much: Free!


Below, find an article about an anti-local author from Canada, of all places. Never forget these folks are out there, writing and speaking to other academics and a few decision-makers too.

My feeling is that these are the same type of folks who told us that nuclear power would be “too cheap to meter”, that global weather instability was “bad science’, that health care insurers know more than we do about costs and so on. A healthy suspicion of energetic movements is fine, but to limit food movements to upper middle class foodies buying fancy items is a short view of the many outcomes that come from alternative food systems. What about (to name just a few) healthier menus, soil reclamation, farmer generation, multi-cultural mapping, seasonal food increase, smarter regional planning, more public edible or low-water usage landscaping, biodiversity education, seed-saving, mental health projects, child health, social cohesion, geographical awareness?

What also occurs to me is he seem blissfully unaware that he views industrial ag as having the purpose of being for all when it is actually only for profit-making corporations. And then argues that food activists (“locavores” as he terms us) only want better food for their class and ignore the “realities” of the social woes in the larger system. I laugh aloud when I see or hear this, as I know that many, many food activists came to it from other social movements because they know it is a necessary approach for every system, whether we are talking about education, childcare, aging, anti-racism, environmental issues, immigrant reform, healthcare and so on.

Unfortunately, often we play into hands such as these with our gorgeous color photos of someone carrying a root vegetable who looks like they’re from upper-class middle America (read young, trim white person in overalls with white teeth and skin smiling from the cover of the report who tell us inside about their transformation from college kid to new farmer as they work in some “underserved” area) rather than reporting a before and after of what health crisis our citizens have saved themselves from by turning to human-scaled sustainable agriculture.
Stories should abound of activists who came to this to reclaim their health from their own degenerative medical conditions, or of those who lost the last of the soil on their farm or those who use it to engage multi-cultural communities. Or of communities organizing around cultural assets to create true wealth, and it just so happens that those assets happen to be food based.
Actually, I don’t worry too much about these writers. I don’t worry that much because I know that those we have already reached with our message so far have taken the time to consider the alternatives, so won’t be easily swayed. The audience for writers such as these may therefore even smaller than ours! And most of those who haven’t joined the good food revolution yet aren’t reading academics like this.
But as I said at the beginning, for some policymakers, this argument would be appealing. After all, inertia is an easy thing to allow. And I know that brands are powerful: there are people among us that remember being called: 1950s “reds”, 1960s “dirty hippies”, 1970s and 1980s “tree-huggers”, 1990s “angry queers” and so on. Smart people; they turned those tables and labels to their advantage and still made change in their time. Let’s do the same here. Gather data on your impact and share it widely. It’s the best way to silence the Chicken Littles of the industrial world.


Toronto Market profile-Dufferin Grove Farmers Market

I had the pleasure of visiting our food community in Toronto in mid April, courtesy of the Greenbelt Farmers Market Network and its organizers, Anne Freeman and Sara Udow. Before I left, I was able to visit Anne’s well established, highly respected market (many people I chatted with throughout the city mentioned this market to me when they found I work with public markets), the Dufferin Grove Farmers Market.
The Dufferin Grove Park is a study in itself, and deserves to be used as an example by other neighborhoods that want to be a bridge for their residents and to use their space to inspire and share. I had the great fortune (thanks to Anne Freeman) to sit down with Jutta Mason who has dedicated much of her time to the evolution of this park and its activities. I could say more nice things about Jutta, how market organizers should be so lucky to have a partner like her, but she’d just find this lionizing of her quite odd probably.
But do take some time to see the wealth of resources and activities this informal group has brought to their area:
Friends of DGP

The market itself runs year-round (take that, northerners that say it can’t be done!) and has focused on organic producers, but does have farmers that represent non-organic farming as well. A good mix of small and large vendors. The wild rice vendor is a good example of the mix of season and scale of the vendors- he was sold out for the year after I bought some of his rice and would be back to his regular work until he harvested rice next year. (He told me to throw some of his rice into the swamps down in New Orleans- I might take that idea for an old creek bed on my family property…)
In any case, this is a fantastic Thursday evening farmers market that has been around for a decade already and will be there for future generations….

Black Duck Wild Rice-Toronto

Toronto CA community park

The community garden at the Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto. Sits right next to the weekly farmers market...

Folks sitting on the grass in Dufferin Grove Park next to the weekly farmers market.

Anne Freeman, the manager of the Dufferin Grove Park Farmers Market is seen here (in pink shirt) talking with one of her vendors in the Zamboni storage area (it is Canada after all!) where the market camps out in the winter and then spills out into the walkway for the rest of the year.

The market sets up this cleaning station for shoppers to add condiments and to clean their plates. A very attractive set up..

The market sale board for the park folks who make bread and food in their bake ovens and have a Friday night dinner as well.

Toronto trip #1

I just returned from giving the keynote at the Greenbelt Farmers Market Network Market Manager Day in Toronto Canada. I know, how lucky does one person get…

Spending four days with my peers to the north taught me a great many things and confirmed some others. I will post a few different stories and highlights about the trip this week, but let me start today with some generalities:
1. The deep awareness of the importance of civil society in Canada serves the market and food system well. Those working on these issues know that in order for change to be calibrated correctly, it is important for citizens to constantly act as “civic agents.” They are not afraid to be oppositional when needed (when dealing with government especially) but also understand that they need to “assist each department in achieving their particular mandate” as eloquently stated by Barbara Emanuel, Manager of the Food Strategy at Toronto Public Health. (That civic agent term was defined again for me in an article I read on the way home in the latest Democracy: A Journal of Ideas in a series called Reclaiming Citizenship which I heartily recommend as well.)
2. Every food organizer I met on that trip understood that the farmer/producer needs to remain as the central partner in all projects. In other words, I didn’t come across lip service to the needs of the farmer. That lip service is usually found in code words or phrases such as “scaling up” or “elitist farmers markets” in food system conversations that I find myself in across North America and in other Western countries. Those code words tell you that the sayers are content to ignore the facts of the relative age and sophistication of our work and the intractable nature of the industrial food system so far.
I instead heard complex, thoughtful responses to the needs of farmers while balancing health equity needs for shoppers. I wish I found that more often in my travels.
3. A set of organizers who recognize that they all must remain at the same table. More specifically, that they all sit at the table but may not have the same menu of choices in front of them. Debbie Fields, the extraordinary Executive Director of FoodShare Toronto said as much to me about her colleague Anne Freeman (my host, the organizer of the Greenbelt Farmers Market Network and founder of the Dufferin Grove Farmers Market) “Anne and I understand that we have the same goal but have to use different avenues to get there.”
4. Internal evaluation is becoming known and necessary. I can’t wait to tell you more about the dynamic presentation (and later meeting of the mind) I experienced through Helene St. Jacques, a Food Share board member and marketing research professional showing results of the research done on behalf of the markets. . And, I look forward to doing some of that US/Canada evaluation sharing with Helene as well.

So much to tell you….

Farmers Market Promotion Program Grants Available

AMS No. 021-12

Gwen Sparks (202) 260-8210

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2012 – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking grant applicants for the 2012 Farmers Market Promotion Program.

Approximately $10 million is available for marketing operations such as farmers markets, community supported agriculture and road-side stands. The grants, which are administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), are available through a competitive application process on The grants aim to increase the availability of local agricultural products in communities throughout the county. They will also help strengthen farmer-to-consumer marketing efforts.

“These grants will put resources into rural and urban economies, and help strengthen efforts to provide access to nutritious and affordable foods,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “This program not only supports the health and well-being of local communities but also the economic health of their farms and businesses.”

Projects that expand healthy food choices in food deserts or low-income areas (where the percentage of the population living in poverty is 20 percent or above) will receive additional consideration. USDA, in coordination with the Departments of the Treasury and Health and Human Services, seeks to increase access to fresh, healthy and affordable food choices for all Americans, while expanding market opportunities for farmers and ranchers.

Information on applying for a Farmers Market Promotion Program grant will be published in the April 6, 2012, Federal Register and available online at Applications will only be accepted via and must be received by May 21, 2012. Applications that are incomplete, hand-delivered, or sent via U.S. mail will not be considered. Applicants should start the registration process as soon as possible to meet the deadline. Contact Carmen Humphrey, Program Manager, by phone: (202) 720-8317, or e-mail: for more information.

Authorized by the Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1976 and amended by the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the Farm Bill), the Farmers Market Promotion Program is in the seventh year of funding direct markets that benefit local and regional economies.

The Farmers Market Promotion Program is part of USDA’s commitment to support local and regional communities. These investments are highlighted in USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF) Compass. The KYF Compass is a digital guide to USDA resources related to local and regional food systems. The Compass consists of an interactive U.S. map showing local and regional food projects and an accompanying narrative documenting the results of this work through case studies, photos and video content.

A large selection of USDA-supported programs and projects is also visible on the KYF Map, which can be displayed by theme, program, or recipient type. Both the KYF Compass and map will be regularly refreshed with new data and case studies.


Get the latest AMS news at or follow us on Twitter @USDA_AMS. You can also read about us on the USDA blog.

Canada Reports 3.09 Billion Dollar Farmers Market Impact

Seems like a well done economic impact report from Farmers Market Canada for the 2008 season.