History of the Ontario Food Terminal

The Ontario Food Terminal’s creation was generated by many factors including poor existing produce distribution facilities in the downtown core of the City of Toronto, limited access by farmers to those existing facilities, and the plight of the Ontario Farmer in the post war period.

The premier at the time recognised the importance of state planning as an essential tool for facilitating economic growth.  He embarked on a plan for post-war reconstruction that called for unprecedented government involvement into the economy.  Ontario farmers were able to effectively organize and use its political clout to influence provincial policy.  At that time, there were gains in farming productivity, thus increasing produce supply but this was not matched by increasing demand.  Therefore, farming   incomes were declining and the farmers felt that they were not participating on the post-war economic boom.  In addition, farmers faced increased competition from American farmers who, with their superior growing conditions, less expensive labour, improvements in the US national highway system and technological advancements in refrigeration were able to penetrate the Ontario market.

The existing distribution facilities were in poor repair, cramped, congested, did not have proper loading areas and had no refrigeration.  There was no space for Ontario farmers and excluded newcomers from the wholesale marketplace.  These inefficient wholesale facilities and limited competition resulted in higher prices for lower quality fruits and produce.

As a result, the Ontario Government passed the Ontario Food Terminal Act, in which it created the Ontario Food Terminal Board to construct, equip and operate a wholesale fruit and produce market as a public utility.

The Terminal was envisioned as an institution that would address the excess supply problem.  It was felt the Terminal would provide space for Ontario farmers so that they could sell directly to the wholesale market, as well as to centralize all wholesalers and farmers in one location, in a modern and well-designed distribution facility thus improving the efficiency of the urban distribution network and it was hoped that these gains in efficiency would be ultimately passed onto the farmers in the form of higher prices.  The Terminal was also to be a facility where Buyers can obtain all their fruit and produce requirements in one location.

In June 1954 the warehouse tenants left their downtown premises in the core of the city and together with the farmers, moved to the Ontario Food Terminal located at the time in the western outskirts of the City.  The warehouse tenants were housed in warehouse buildings and the farmers’ occupied outside stalls adjacent to the warehouse units.