50 years ago, in the early 2000s, the farmers market began to see resurgence. And no wonder! The suburban experience and the shopping mall were beginning to be understood as a colossal planning mistake. The theories of urbanist, Jane Jacobs, were finally beginning to be taken seriously, with walkable communities springing up everywhere.
The decisive moment came when then-Mayor and high school football coach, Rob Ford, was tackled in playful exuberance by his players after winning the provincial high school championship, and suffered a brutal concussion, rendering him coma-bound for months. The city held its breath in fear, terrified of losing their feisty and charismatic leader but when he recovered, something profound had changed.
Mayor Ford’s first press conference was a spectacular mea culpa in which he confessed to engineering the budget crisis, wept openly, tears and mucous streaming down his face and committed to make the city a stronger, safer, more equitable and entirely green zone. Money flooded into public transit; Transit City was back on the table; libraries sprang up in every Tim Horton’s, in what is now regarded as the most revolutionary public-private partnership on earth; the Gardiner expressway was converted into the Gardiner Garden of the Multitude; and the suburbs were rapidly transformed into walkable, bikeable oases of greenery. With the power of eminent domain, Ford commandeered the malls, installing day care facilities where Walmarts used to reign, and applied the Dufferin Grove Park Model (DGPM) across the administration of all parks in the GTA. As you know, the DGPM is now the civic standard for public park use around the world and has been transplanted to the flowering colonies on Mars.
But most importantly, on that day in 2012, with the bandages still on Mayor Ford’s head, he squinted at the teleprompter, hoisted his arms into the air and shouted those four fateful words heard around the world, triggering a revolution in protein production, shrinking the carbon footprint of his favourite bacon double cheese burger and decisively turning the tide on escalating environmental destruction. So familiar are these word that they truly need no repeating, but we’ll repeat them anyway, just in case you were born in 2049. Mayor Ford raised his meaty fists into the smoggy atmosphere and hollered: LET THEM EAT BUGS!
The story of what followed is well known to us now, but we can never celebrate our heroes too much. Mayor Ford called together an elite team consisting of architect Kubo Dzamba, the mastermind behind 3MF or Third Millennial Farming, a revolutionary system for capturing sunlight, feeding it to algae, feeding the algae to bugs and making burgers with the bugs; Nathan Isberg, culinary visionary and owner of the world-renowned Atlantic Restaurant at Dundas and Brock, the genius tasked with making bugs delicious, Dr. Hala Chaoui the Lebanese-born agricultural engineer, famous for making worms the common household pet they are today, working happily for humans, producing nutritious fertilizer for all of our urban crops; Mae Shaban, the architect known then for installing Algae Chandeliers in the home of Toronto’s most radiant adopted son, Richard Florida; and art supastah Dean Baldwin, the mad chemist of form, there in his full glory, determined to make sure everyone was drunk and inspired. With performance company Mammalian Diving Reflex getting everyone coffee and the Justina M. Barnicke supplying the space, the team hunkered down and produced the vision for the future that we inhabit today.
We’ve all seen and will forever remember the joyous images that were produced at the project’s inauguration: the city’s first public wedding, occupying the whole of the Toronto Islands, a chitinous feast of epic proportions to celebrate the nuptials of Rob’s brother Doug to local literary luminary Margaret Atwood. The guests hungrily dove into the grub pizza, Mealworm Fried Rice, Locust Stew and Butterfly Wing Brulee. Finally, North America had caught up with many other parts of the world, which had been eating the crunchy critters for years.
Today you wander our Farmers Market 2050 and nothing strikes you as odd; we’re offering crickets fed on fragrant herbs, grown in rich and nutritious vermicastings and glitteringly green algae, organic produce that is grown in all school yards by teams of happy child farmers relieved to be unchained from their desks and small shrink-wrapped packets of beef at exhorbitant prices, reflecting their true cost to the world.
It’s a wonderful and totally sustainable world and, to you, this is simply how it is; it’s so obvious and, though it’s important to remember our history lest we repeat our mistakes, there’s something reassuring in the fact that today our Farmers Market 2050, with it’s seamless incorporation of creeping livestock, looks utterly ordinary. It’s just another day in Fordonto.