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In a city as diverse as Toronto, this long-time chef strives to reflect that diversity in a predominantly white-centred industry and space with Deeply Rooted, Toronto’s first Black and Indigenous farmers market.
The market opened just last month and takes place every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in East York at 455 Cosburn Avenue. Beyond the delectable food and brilliant art available for purchase, the event is incredibly family-friendly with captivating performances and a variety of fun entertainment for all ages.
Chef Camille Mayers realized the evident lack of Black and Indigenous representation through her time participating in farmers markets around the GTA, and was inspired to create a space specifically for Black farmers and vendors.
“Black people farm. Black people cook. Black people are artisans. We’re entrepreneurs by default, especially because we don’t get into the corporate world the same way,” she says. “I just didn’t understand why there was no representation.”
Through her research she realized the gap in representation was largely caused by land disparities and inequalities, which led her to change her original plan to also be inclusive to the Indigenous community. Mayers wanted to ensure a conversation about land included the people whose land we occupy, and that is used by the extensive number of white farmers that dominate the farmers market space.
As a strong advocate for the inequalities that the Black community continues to face, the seasoned chef aspired to be able to boost and give back to her community in a different way that would reach farther than her words. “I thought to myself, ‘What can I do for my community that aligns with who I am?’ I am deeply involved with the food industry, and farmers markets, and also having money circulating in our community,” she says.
Food has been at the forefront of Chef Mayers’ life and the lives of her family members since she was a child helping her mother in the kitchen by cooking bacon and eggs for her siblings. It may have just been breakfast, but it meant everything to her, and her love for food blossomed further as the years went on. As a result, combining both passions into Deeply Rooted was a natural next step for her and the product has been more than she had hoped for.
Mayers found most of her vendors and farmers through social media and began building her team through friends of friends on Instagram. City councillor Paula Fletcher was also instrumental in bringing Mayers’ idea to life through her support. At first reaching out to potential vendors was an hourly practice, but given the market’s success she is now receiving floods of messages asking to take part in the weekly events. She has even begun drafting a list for next year’s market for those who may not be able to commit to this year.
Despite its growing popularity, Deeply Rooted is constantly looking for additions, specifically farmers, and Indigenous vendors of any craft. You can sign up by filling out the online form linked in their Instagram account bio, which is also linked on the main page of their website under, ‘Apply Now’.
They are also seeking donations of fresh produce, non-perishable foods, and personal care items to fill the community fridges throughout Toronto. Community Fridges TO has a number of fridges stationed throughout the city and so far Mayers has been able to fill many of them weekly, following the market, to provide safe, healthy food for Torontonians in need.
Whether you want to join a drum circle with Havenly Kreations and learn a new skill, or enjoy fantastic food in the sun with your family and friends, Deeply Rooted Farmers Market is a vibe! It runs until Sept. 25, so there’s plenty of time to make it out on a sunny Sunday morning.