Cyclist Vendors at Toronto Office Markets

This bread from Nice Buns Bakery's was delivered on a bicycle.

Farmers market vendors depend on bikes to bring their product to you

Story and photos by Kaitlyn Kochany

Imagine a farmer’s market that came to you. Instead of giving up a weekend morning to fight through throngs of like-minded shoppers, locally produced and sourced food would be delivered directly to your office building. Slip downstairs from your desk to browse homemade pies, fresh vegetable, and still-warm bread.

Aruna Handa has made this drool-worthy daydream a reality. The Toronto Office Markets, a pilot program operating since October 2011, connects office workers with local bakers, cheese-makers, chocolate purveyors and farmers through weekly lunchtime marketplaces in office building lobbies and outdoor concourses. Along with an eight-week guest spot at the ING Building downtown, Toronto Office Markets have found a semi-permanent home at The Center for Social Innovation’s Annex location and in a private Liberty Village office building.

Sara Lapell only uses her bicycle to deliver her Nice Buns baked goods.

When I ask vendor Sara Lapell if she has a car, she smiles. “Never had a driver’s license, never had my own car. I maintain that we don’t all have to be good at the same things.” She makes up for her lack of driving skills by offering gorgeous artisan sourdoughs. Nice Buns Bakery, Lapell’s business, uses a bike trailer to haul ingredients to her kitchen, and the finished product to market. “I’ve only had the trailer tip once,” she says.  “That was a low point.”

For businesspeople who are considering adding a bike to their operations, Lapell says “Go for it – it’s a relatively small investment, and when I started thinking of my bike as a business expense, that allowed me to prioritize it, like taking it to the shop and let the people who are good at fixing it fix it.”

The smell of Gabriela Ituarte’s nixtamal corn tortillas wafts through the office building and is a tantalizing reason to come for lunch. Ituarte, who is part of ChocoSol, says, “We like to do farmers and office markets to establish a connection between what you’re eating and where you’re getting it.” ChocoSol works directly with suppliers, including Amish corn farmers in the Kawarthas, to work the triple bottom line.

Gabriela Ituarte brings all of her tortilla-making equipment on a bike trailer.

ChocoSol has incorporated bikes into their production side: “The technology is eco-friendly: we use bike grinder, bike blenders, and for special events we bring the bikes trailer.” ChocoSol even had a custom-made bike-trailer kitchen -- the “tortilla trailer” -- which neared 200 kg and had to occasionally be pushed to the top of hills. “I lost a lot of weight that summer,” Ituarte laughs.

Handa says the future is bright for the office markets. “We’re still tinkering, looking to make it as good as possible for everybody concerned. The more we do it, the more we figure out what works and what doesn’t work.”

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For more food-related stories, check out our Food Issue.

To find out what sorts of things other people carry on their bike, check out our Shopping by Bike bike spotting.

Please note, we previously spelled Gabriela Ituarte's last name incorrectly. We regret the error.

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