Last Saturday afternoon, Lianne McKay and Shelley Langill filed onto the number 80 bus at Keele Station, heading to the Ontario Food Terminal for the very first time.
The 40-acre Etobicoke warehouse—through which 5.3 million pounds of produce pass daily—opened to the public for the first time in 58 years on Saturday for Fresh Fest (a benefit for FoodShare, which provides healthy food to underprivileged communities). “I’ve been wanting to go for years,” said McKay, who’d heard about the event that morning on the radio.
Approximately 40 per cent of Ontario’s produce is distributed through the Queensway terminal, where farmers sell their goods directly to major buyers. Ron Mandryk, a farmer from Jericho affectionately dubbed “The Eggplant Man,” has been selling his goods there since 1967 and credits it for keeping him in business.
“If I go through a broker, he’s going to take his cut,” he said. “Here, we sell directly to stores so there’s no middle man, and we keep prices at a reasonable rate.”
Mandryk manned his station while the crowds passed, touting the terminal’s benefits to passing groups: “I support 25 people [working on my farm]. We pick 300 to 400 bushels of peppers a day, and another 300 to 400 boxes of eggplant. You’re not going to sell that at a farmers’ market.”
Feeling inspired after a couple of hours traipsing around, McKay and Langille headed back to the subway, planning a food-canning party. Said McKay: “We’ll be our own FoodShare.”—