July 12, 2010

Loblaws Buys Local

In January 1956, at the age of 16, my mother, Lena, married my father, Ray, and moved into his new house on Bridgeland Ave (very close to what today is Yorkdale Shopping Centre). My father had purchased the house, which was situated on three acres, from the original farm owner, Mr Burbridge.

Lena Disero, January 1956

In the back of the lot was planted more rhubarb than my mother had ever seen. Being the smart and industrious girl that she was, (she had, after all, been working for Tip Top Tailors since she was 14), she was determined to sell the rhubarb if at all possible.

She cut a sample bunch, got on a bus and then a streetcar and headed down to the Loblaws warehouses on Fleet St.

She walked in and spoke with the manager in charge. I guess the rhubarb was of good quality, and perhaps the man in charge had some sympathy for my mother because he agreed to purchase all she had.

He gave her a small scale, told her how much each bunch should weigh and how long the bunches should be. He also gave her elastic bands to tie them up and foldable cardboard crates to put them in.

Lena and Ray Disero, Summer 1956

For a day and a half she cut and weighed rhubarb. When all were bundled up and ready to go she told her father-in-law, Diamante, to bring his little truck, that she needed his help delivering her rhubarb. They loaded it up and off they went to make their delivery.

A couple of weeks later a cheque for $39 arrived in the mail, “and I was Rich, Rich, Rich!” she said. Considering a loaf of bread cost 13 cents, at that time, she was.

The following year my mother never had the chance to sell her rhubarb. As you can see in the picture below of her, my sister and my grandfather, She was otherwise employed.

Lena, Betty and Diamante, October 1957

Now this story may have happened over 50 years ago but it does show that buying local has always been a priority for companies like Loblaws. In this case, “Local” meant within the current boundaries of the City of Toronto. Now that is urban agriculture!

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If you are hosting a garden related event in the GTA and would like it covered in gardentoronto.ca or would like to place an e-poster about it on our Events Calendar, just contact me. I am always delighted to promote anything gardening in Toronto.

Mark Disero

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