Last week, this mysterious and lovely lady came into Bicyclette one day to drop off flyers for the Toronto Flower Market (tomorrow, Saturday May 10, is the first day!) and I was ecstatic. We were just about to send her Girl Crush questions and through my internet savvy digging (a good journalist always Google searches their subjects), to my surprise I could not find much information. Chatting up a storm with the friendly Natasa, founder of the Toronto Flower Market, I quickly realized the answer to this internet absence. It was so evident that Natasa believes in the simplicity of community, of bringing old traditions to our neighborhood and being a promoter of art, culture, and connection. This illusive beauty is ever so present in our community, establishing a floral oasis for a city we love. Natasa has an ease and comfort in her own skin, and seems to float through varied hobbies and interests throughout the city, bringing her magical touch to everything she encounters. The flower market has become a fast staple in our city and one of our most cherished summer activities, and we think you will cherish its originator as well after reading this week’s Girl Crush.
In 140 characters (the length of a tweet) describe what you do.
Founder of Toronto Flower Market, of course but also a champion of Toronto's cultural potential, adventure seeker, aunt, girlfriend & BFF.
Where did the idea for the Toronto Flower Market come about?
In August 2012, I was visiting my friend Dana in London and she took me to Columbia Road Flower Market. A 75-year-old market set up on a narrow cobblestone street, lined with an abundance of green with growers everywhere heckling their prices. It was the most lively urban oasis I have ever experienced. I was mesmerized. I walked down the path, not actually being able to focus on one thing but taking in all the smells, noise, colour and people as if it was all one. It was magical.
The visit stuck with me. I just couldn’t believe Toronto didn’t have a flower market. I wondered why we didn’t, and then I thought we should. So one baby step at a time I started researching, putting together a plan and reaching out to growers.
I didn’t know anything about flowers going into it. But I believed in an experience and creating a 75 year old city tradition. I just had to convince people to believe in that vision too. And it worked (so far).
I love that you discovered a need for something in the city and decided to start it. What was the biggest lesson and maybe an obstacle you faced? What has been your proudest moment?
Early on in the process I found I was making decisions on blind faith that things would eventually come together. I felt very uncomfortable doing this - I don't work that way! Things get done in sequence and are based on how they impact next steps. My biggest lesson was letting go of a rigid frame of mind and being okay with a process that was a bit messier and required leaps of faith.
For instance, when it was time to start recruiting growers for the flower market I had to convince them to trust a stranger with no flower experience to participate in something that had never existed before. When they asked where it was, I had nothing to tell them because I hadn't secured a location yet! I'm still amazed sometimes that so many growers said yes.
My proudest moment was on May 11th, 2013 when Toronto Flower Market setup its stalls for the first time :) Okay maybe AFTER the first market had wrapped. I was so nervous nobody would show up!
Currently there seems to be a greater need for community and shopping locally. Can you discuss the need for this in our society and how it plays into the Flower Market.
I don’t think the need is new. Local isn’t a trend, it’s people being earth-friendly and contributing to a healthy future of our planet.
It is becoming a more important conversation as our access to the world grows. We are being asked to be conscious of all our buying habits and to be aware of our local resources because our decisions have impact on our planet. It’s becoming more and more evident.
I’m not trying to preach, I still indulge in garden roses and other imported flowers – you can’t deny their delicious smell. But I don’t need them every time I want flowers, everything in moderation. And I usually buy them to mix in with local varieties.
But consider this: imagine we just bought the imports and didn’t support the local flower growers, what would happen to the greenhouses? Worst-case scenario, they wouldn’t exist. How sad is that? I realize that’s a bit extreme, but it’s something to think about. It’s exactly like the post Paige wrote on local businesses, if you don’t shop in them, they can’t afford to keep their storefront open. In come the chains and we lose a part of what makes our city special.
The thing about flowers is that the majority of people don’t know what’s in season or even what’s local. So the hope is that the flower market can help with that: to give consumers local options and for them to pick their favourite plant or flower depending on the month. We're educating through experience and the end result is fresher, longer lasting flowers in homes.
What are your favourite Toronto summertime activities? Do you have a special spot/activity in the city?
Well, I love spending time at Toronto Flower Market. So there’s that.
I always look forward to Ontario strawberries, Pimm cocktails, backyard BBQs, late sunsets, the music of ice cream trucks, soft serve from ice cream trucks, wearing only one layer of clothing, playing catch with my boyfriend Josh, boozy “work” lunches and weekend patios with friends, reggae music coming out of car windows, dancing to reggae music (though that’s not an exclusive summertime activity), my backyard garden where my mom teaches me how to have a green thumb, baseball games when the dome is open, sitting in the grass, riding my bike Goldie, staring at the sun for too long and then seeing nothing but a big bright spot, jets in the sky.......
I'm reluctant to share my special spot, because it's pretty quiet and that's mainly why I go. Behind the band shell on the exhibition grounds, there is a rose garden by the old water fountains. It’s my favourite secret spot. I discovered it last year, and now go all the time, day or night.
What flower would best represent your personality?
Geez, how do you pick just one? I want to be all of them!
A friend told me that I should be “something bright and straight-forward, not fussy. Probably yellow or orange, and flowers for a long time.” I’m a little bit surprised with her colour choice but I dig it. Based on this, and because I believe it's pretty accurate, I’d say I’m a Zinnia. They are SO easy to cultivate and last forever. But the best part is that they symbolize thoughtfulness and friendship. Being considerate of people and being aware of their feelings is important to me. It helps me gain perspective but mostly, I like how being thoughtful makes people feel. People can always count on me, for anything.
Are you more likely to run away to a farm with a wild flower garden, secluded away or live in a loft building in the city with a rooftop garden?
Over the hill and far away. That's the big escape plan. I want views with hills and fields and limitless skies. And friendly animals. No more fat raccoons or possums. What's with all the damn possums? *shivers* I'd run away for sure, but with the caveat that I'd still like to be tied to the city either through work or simply by living close enough to have access to it. I want the best of both, but would definitely plant my seeds in a wild flower garden rather than a rooftop one.
You also have several other passions, can you tell me about the other projects you are involved in?