The number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the past twenty years, following the urban move toward fresh, locally-sourced, and often organic produce and other goods. As coastal cities like San Francisco or L.A. caught on to the trend—many of their markets opening only in the mid- to late-twentieth century—Toledo had already had a thriving farmers’ market since 1832, making it one of the oldest in the states.
But beyond the trendy local buys and fresh vegetables, what is the appeal of the rapidly growing farmers’ market, and what is its future? When Toledo’s first began, it was born out of a need for a central location for commerce and was located on Monroe, Superior, and Washington Streets, near a streetcar line for community accessibility. The Toledo Farmers’ Market became a center not only of commerce, but also of cultural exchange. Simple greetings from family to family and even hagglings over the price of a pound of pork formed everyday and seemingly unremarkable connections that engendered the community today.
While the market has switched locations over the course of the past two hundred years, from Spielbusch to Erie Street, it has remained a busy city center and has undergone renovation and infrastructural improvements since the late 1900s to give us the flourishing market we see today. At one point when the Market was at Erie Street, however, the stalls eventually began to sink into the soft, marshy soil left from the Great Black Swamp of long ago, reminding us that the very farmland on which our produce—and our community—grows was once an unforgiving swampy marsh.
The Toledo Farmers’ Market is open Saturdays DEC-APRIL 9-1pm; MAY-NOV 8-2pm.