The Ontario Food Terminal
“I’ll Take You There!” When an invitation to visit the infamous “Market” during a recent visit to Toronto presented itself, I couldn’t resist! That mysterious section of the city has always intrigued so many people. My brother is a buyer for a large nursery and this is a weekly excursion for him, sometimes more frequently, depending on the time of year.
We rise early to ensure the most abundant selection. The city streets are eerily quiet at 3:00am as we anxiously anticipate what treasures lie ahead. Spring, Easter and Mother’s Day are extremely busy times for the Market. Vendors providing the first bursting trays of purple pansies, robust Rosemary transplants and fragrant lilies are sure to run out of product first. Multiple kiosks full of trays, boxes, stacks and crates of bewildering plants, flowers, herbs, vegetables and fresh fruit. The space is marvellously teaming with life! Trucks manoeuvre somewhat cautiously to park, front end loaders, laden with pallets, dash amongst foot traffic and arrangements of goods. Purveyors scramble to construct makeshift cash counters while tweaking their displayed wares. It is a true flurry of activity!
The Ontario Food Terminal (OFT) is the main produce distribution centre for Toronto. The giant U-shaped building occupies 1,740,000 square feet of a 40 acres site and includes 80,000 square feet of cold storage and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for deliveries. Annually, some one million vehicles arrive at the centre delivering produce from across North America or leave to distribute it to stores and restaurants across the city. It is the largest such facility in Canada, and the third largest in North America after those in Chicago and Los Angeles.
When it opened, most shipments arrived by rail, but today most arrive by truck, while some are flown in via nearby Pearson Airport. The fruits and vegetables are shipped to the terminal from Ontario farms as well as more distant locales such as Florida, California, and Mexico. At the terminal, local buyers meet the sellers and haggle over prices. It is thus the main market for establishing produce prices in the region. The majority of the produce eaten in Toronto moves through the terminal.
Normally, The Ontario Food Terminal is not open to the public. So if you are ever fortunate enough to be invited … Be sure to go!