By Jasleen Sohal
When it comes to food, there’s nothing quite like the taste and quality of farm-fresh, locally produced eggs. In Toronto’s Coxwell and Gerrard area, a special initiative called Equinox Eggs has been bringing together small-scale farmers and community members for the past seven years. Led by a dedicated team of volunteers, this grassroots effort has not only provided access to quality eggs but also strengthened community bonds and promoted sustainability.
The seeds of Equinox Eggs were sown seven years ago when a parent at an alternative school in Toronto sought meaningful ways to fundraise. The initiative’s founder, inspired by connections with small-scale farmers in the Hanover, Ontario area, envisioned a project that would benefit the community while supporting local agriculture. The idea of providing affordable, organic eggs from responsible farms took shape, giving birth to what would become the Equinox Eggs initiative. This initiative plays a vital role in assisting small-scale farmers who are too small to qualify for organic certifications, allowing them to sell their organic eggs and contribute to the community’s access to them.
Equinox Eggs operates under a unique and inclusive model. The initiative is not officially named, but it’s affectionately referred to as “The Eggs” by those involved. The torch of leadership is passed from one dedicated individual to another every few years. Currently, Genevieve Kenny, the third volunteer, is at the helm, ensuring continuity and growth. She enthusiastically stepped forward to take over the initiative when the last leader stepped down, driven by her love for how it contributes to the community and how it introduces a touch of agriculture into both her family and the local community.
Every week, community members place their orders for farm-fresh eggs priced competitively at $5 per dozen. A dollar per dozen eggs goes to a neighbourhood school’s Legacy Fund which funds programs such as outdoor education, breakfast for students and more. Through Equinox Eggs, families gain access to good quality, organic eggs, which might otherwise be beyond their budget. Equinox Eggs isn’t just about providing affordable and nutritious eggs; it’s also a proponent of sustainable practices. As a circular recycling program, all egg cartons are collected, returned to the farmers, and reused.
The eggs are picked up and distributed every Thursday from 3-4 pm on Ashdale Ave outside a local school, creating opportunities for neighbors to connect and build camaraderie. For those who may have difficulty picking up the eggs during the designated hours, after-hours pickup options are available at Shudell Ave on Thursday from 6 pm to 8 pm and on Friday from 8 am to 8 pm. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, members came together to collect the eggs, providing a much-needed social interaction during times of isolation. The sense of community formed during the pandemic has endured, with community members continuing to coordinate and offer assistance for those who might face challenges in picking-up the eggs by a certain time and date. Currently, Tammy Hinsche, a community member, manages the storage and pick-up of the eggs from her porch.
Running a community initiative comes with its own set of challenges. One such obstacle for Equinox Eggs is maintaining consistent orders throughout the year, particularly during the summer months when the local school is on summer break and community members might be away. However, the commitment of volunteers and the unwavering support of the community keep the initiative thriving. The success and impact of Equinox Eggs have not gone unnoticed. Inquiries from other communities have come in, expressing interest in replicating this model. While the local team is limited in size, they generously share their experiences and connect interested parties with the farmers, encouraging similar initiatives to bloom in other neighborhoods.
Equinox Eggs goes beyond providing eggs to its members. Any excess eggs are donated to local food banks, free food pantries and school breakfast programs, helping combat food insecurity in the area. However, it’s worth noting that during these donations, a disclaimer is included, stating that the eggs are unrefrigerated because they come from small-scale farms without chemical washes, ensuring their safety for storage without refrigeration.
Equinox Eggs is a remarkable neighborhood-based initiative bringing together small-scale farmers and community members for seven years. Besides providing access to quality eggs, it fosters community bonds, promotes sustainability, and donates surplus eggs to combat food insecurity. This grassroots effort demonstrates the significance of small, local initiatives in building resilient communities and making a positive impact on people’s lives.