Take a converted TTC rail barn, a thriving local social community of families, artists, musicians, storytellers and organic food connoisseurs, and you have Artscape Wychwood Barns. This Saturday morning outdoor organic market, located at St. Clair and Christie, is part of a 60,000 square foot multi-purpose community centre and has been a staple for Toronto families ever since opening in 2008.
Neatly organized around a fenced-in dog park and large, grassy hill, the organic food stalls are lined up along a wide centre aisle, making it as easy as it gets to maneuver around with a stroller, diaper bag, and two kids in tow. Every Saturday morning, we head over to the Barns with our two kids to taste the delectable delights: fair trade organic Kurtis coffee, yummy whole wheat pizzas stuffed with so many fresh vegetables there’s not a square bit of space not smothered in healthy goodness, organically grown fruits and veggies from Vicki’s Veggies, honey straight from the beekeepers themselves (from Honeypie Hives and Herbals) and fresh bread and fruit juices so natural it’s like you’ve stuck a straw directly into a succulent plum or apricot.
We happily shop for healthy organic food at The Stop’s Farmers Market, which offers environmentally friendly fare grown and made by people able to make a living wage from their wares. Not only is the food incredible, but the outdoor organic market is an amazing sight for your eyes, as well. Inside the barn, glass, steel and brick sustain a huge open space home to local artists selling jewellery, paintings, homemade stuffed toys and clothing.
When not running the indoor and outdoor organic market, the Barns is home to a renowned nursery school, 26 artists and their families, 17 individual artists and 11 non-profit arts and environmental organizations. On any given Saturday, you might catch a glimpse of a Canadian celebrity. I happened to star-stalk George Stroumboulopoulos, the host of George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. For someone who’s chased Kiefer Sutherland down the street to say hello, celebrity sightings are always an awesome bonus to my day.
When our little ones tire of traipsing through the stalls in the outdoor organic market and are impatiently watching their parents chat with the many friends we always run into at the Barns, there is an incredible park just steps away. Built entirely on sand, the park offers swings, climbers, massive sunken sandboxes and one of the best sprinkler systems in the summer. It’s always packed with kids, but ours always get a ton of space to play.
Where to go on the weekends with your kids is always a question. Finding something that’s fun for them and not yawningly boring for the parents can be tricky. Where else but the Barns can the kids be completely occupied while we talk to our friends and neighbours? And eat! As we sat sipping our delicious coffee and watching the kids roll down the hill, we sighed with contentment. The Artscape Wychwood Barns truly combines community, art, organic food and fun in one architectural designer’s dream.
Artscape Wychwood Barns
601 Christie Street, Toronto