City Feeds Farmers!

From DECA’s Feed The Farmers’ Coordinator, Catherine Porter…

We did it again. But this year, our team of community cooks didn’t just feed 20 farmers a week. They fed 32.  What am I talking about?

Well, if you arrived at the Farmers’ Market this year around 5:30 p.m., your nose would have told you. Each Thursday, someone from the neighbourhood arrived with a steaming dish of food, be it pasta or lentil curry to feed the farmers. More often than not two neighbourhood cooks arrived to dole out plates for the swelling number of farmers and their staff.

We started this tradition last year for a number of reasons.  The first was pure etiquette. Our market hours run smack into dinner. We didn’t want our farmers to leave for the long drive home with empty bellies.  The second was marketing.   Happy sellers make regular sellers.  And that brings back regular customers.  As odd as it sounds, luring farmers to a new market in the big, bad city is not an easy task. We wanted to give farmers every reason to choose us. Our strategy has already worked. A number of the new farmers this year said we were their favourite — mostly because of the community spirit.

Which brings us to the third and most important reason. Community. For us, starting a farmers’ market wasn’t about just eating healthy, local food. It was about building a stronger community in our area. We wanted people to come to the park, buy some strawberries, join in a square dance, watch their kids get transformed into a butterfly via face paint, and chat with their neighbours. The farmers were part of that. What better way to build community than over a plate of hot green curry?  Plus, it’s cool to feed the people who feed us. It just feels right.  This year, DECA paid a small honorarium to community members who cooked for our farmers. Most of the time, it didn’t cover their costs. They are generous souls. Many cooked more than once. A few cooked three times. We want to thank them all individually.  You all helped to make our market a huge success again this year.  We think you rock.

If you’d like to throw on an apron and join us in cooking a meal next year, please e-mail me at

Our beloved 2009 DECA cooks include:

Jessica Schmiedchen, Susan Spratley, Shelley Pogue, Mary Egan, Ellen Long, Lorraine Cheng, Laurie Smith, Tanya Geisler, Wayne Chee, Alisha Austin, Diana Gonzalez, Carolyn Rouse, Martha Wallace, Nicola St. John, Ruth Heathcote, Michael Polanyi, Mary Pickering, Alisa Haggert, Andrea Rourke, Robin Forbes, Sarah Eshelby, Sara Heinonen, Catherine Porter and our fabulous baker Mary-Margaret McMahon.

Danforth Gem – The Wool Mill

If you’re new to DECA Diaries, Danforth Gems are the great shops on our stretch of the Danforth that you may not have yet uncovered.  Thanks so much to Gillian Grace for this installment about the The Wool Mill, east of Woodbine on Danforth.

Forget the Leafs—if Toronto wants a pastime at which it can really shine, try knitting. The city is known for its way with wool, even earning a special shout-out from Vogue Knitting for T.O.’s “unusual number of excellent yarn stores.” Danforth East is lucky enough to have one of those shops within walking distance. The oldest wool store in Toronto, the Wool Mill has been on Danforth just east of Woodbine for the past 17 years (current owner Wendy Mortimer used to buy yarn there as a child).

The Wool Mill stocks everything from the classics—Canadian-processed merinos from Mission Falls—and summery cottons to bamboo mixes and super-soft balls made from a mix of possum yarn and wool. As with food, Mortimer says, people are becoming more conscious of how the wool they use is produced; organic yarns with low-impact dyes are increasingly popular, as is fair trade. Buy a skein of Mirasol yarn, and you’ll be helping fund the construction of a centre for the children of alpaca shepherds in the Peruvian Andes.

Mortimer, an expert knitter, can advise on everything from the history of the craft to the best knitting podcasts. Her needlework has appeared in more than 100 movies, including a recreation of Martha Stewart’s get-out-of-jail poncho for Cybill Shepherd; the coat, booties and hat for Nicole Kidman’s dog in To Die For; and Hilary Swank’s high-flying knitwear in Amelia. Her toughest project was a sweater for Simon Birch, which was supposed to look “really bad;” it kept getting returned with instructions to “make it look worse.”

Mortimer—who started knitting for a Brownies badge, and says she’s knit “pretty much everything you can possibly think of” and made “every mistake in the book”—is also a (very) patient teacher. She can quickly decipher patterns that look more like a WWII-era code than a template for a sweater and get even the most tangled, dropped-stitch-laden projects back on track. A beginner’s class, starting in January, will have newbies knitting and purling a hat or an outfit for a baby; other regular week-night classes cater to more experienced knitters.

Most popular, especially around the holidays, are small, quickly completed projects such as socks, mittens, hats and wristers. But it’s not just a way to make impressive gifts—there’s something incredibly soothing about the act of wrapping the yarn, pulling it through, and repeating. “Knitting,” says Mortimer, “is like a meditation. It allows the body to keep itself busy so the mind can become more still.”

The Wool Mill – 2170 Danforth Ave. 416-696-2670

Hours: Mon – Fri 10:30 – 6, Sat 10:30 – 5

Gillian Grace is a freelance writer and editor.