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July 05, 2017

Community Markets: The Impacts on Public Space

Spring 2011. I began volunteering with my community Farmers' Market in Leslieville, Toronto. This community event happens every Sunday from May to October in the Johnathan Ashbridges parkette. The Market provides a weekly hub for food, arts, culture and education. Each week there is music, a children’s program, and local merchants and farmers sell quality goods and services. The Market was created by three community members and has developed significantly over time. Each Sunday, the Market attracts roughly 2000-2500 people. This was not always the case, and that growth had Market Director Daniel Taylor and I, questioning the effects; The popularity consuming the Market begged the question: Is this Farmers' Market making a difference in the community?

Spring 2014. Daniel and I designed a qualitative and quantitative study that sought to answer the fundamental question – how do urban Farmers Markets impacts urban neighborhoods

Methodology. Data collection was completed over the course of two Market seasons. The first season focused on social impacts. A survey was designed and completed by ~15% of the average Market turn-out rate. Surveys were completed online and at the Market, confidentially. Listed below are some of the questions this survey sought to answer:

  • Demographic: Who are the people that visit out Market? Are they from the neighborhood or another?
  • Accessibility: Is the Market inclusive or exclusive?
  • Social: What does the Market mean to you? Is it more than just a place to support farmers?
The following year, we focused on studying the economic impacts the Farmers Market may have on the local business. With the support of the local Business Improvement Association (BIA) we interviewed ~21/37 merchants. The purpose of the interviews was to determine the following:
  • Neighborhood Image: Does a weekly Farmers Market influence a positive or negative image of the neighborhood?
  • Economic poling: Is your business or the commercial street busier during the Market?
  • Collaboration: As a local merchant, would you want to be showcased at the Market? Does the Farmers Market compete with your business?
Findings. After compiling and analyzing the data, conclusions were drawn and presented. Drawing reference to figure one, we found that people travel across Toronto to visit the Market. We also found that:
  • On average, each person spends 41$ at the Market
  • 76% of Market goers are female
  • The average Market goer does not reflect the average Leslieville community member
  • Local businesses see a notable difference in customer turn-out during Market times
  • 98% of the comprehensive sample group attest that Farmers Market positively impacts to the community 
Please refer to figures 2 and 3 below for more statistical findings.

Conclusion. Our findings showed positive impacts. Overall, community Markets are well received and embraced by local neighborhoods. The study also identified aspect of improvement regarding socioeconomic inclusivity and community representation. We found that the Farmers Market is a positive outlet for children, families and individuals. It has become a centralized hub for public activity.
Figure 2: demographic data findings 
Figure 3: Economic data findings 

If you have any question regarding this study feel free to contact Research director, Candice Leung. For further learning, why not check out OPPI's 2011 Call to Action on food systems!

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s), and may not reflect the position of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

Post by Candice Leung

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