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Deal in works to save Toronto's Riverdale Farm from chopping block

A deal to save Riverdale Farm from the budget chopping block is in the works, with at least one member of the mayor's executive committee intent on finding a solution.

A report by the city manager recommends selling or closing the farm, one of several money-saving measures to be debated Monday at what is shaping up to be another marathon meeting of the city's executive committee. There are about 300 speakers registered.

The farm is a popular destination for families from across Toronto and opposition to its closing has been building since it was first suggested as a part of the city's core service review.

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A group of residents, who have collected more than 8,000 signatures protesting against the move, are hoping to get a stay of execution Monday of at least a few months for the farm, in order to draft a business plan for its continued operation.

"It's not just a matter of don't cut. It's let's be sensible about it," said Anne Pastuszak, co-chair of the Riverdale Park West Stewardship Team, one of three groups that have joined to press councillors for extra time to find a solution. "If this were your business you wouldn't treat it this way."

Executive committee member Michelle Berardinetti, the rookie councillor for Scarborough Southwest, said Friday that she is hoping to discuss the group's request with the city manager and find a solution by Monday's meeting. "I'm working on something to get them a reprieve," she said.

Ms. Pastuszak spoke at the first all-night committee meeting on proposed cuts in July and is speaking on Monday. Her group is studying the business models used by other urban and community farms in North America and Europe and needs some time to develop a new model for operation and funding, she said.

"Let's figure out what's working well and let's figure out what we can drop or change," she said. "To me that's how you determine an efficiency. You don't just cut."

If, after a few months, the group fails to find partners in the public or private sector or to draft a plan, then the city can continue where it left off, Ms. Pastuszak said.

"We want just a little bit of breathing time," she said. "We just want the opportunity to do this on behalf of the people of Toronto."

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