I LOVE being a food blogger! In the few years since I started writing for Mary’s Happy Belly, I’ve had the enormous pleasure of attending so many incredible events and I’ve met some truly exceptional people. Most recently, I spent the day with a group of fellow bloggers, Instagrammers, Snapchatters, etc. visiting two beautiful farms—and what a day it was!
It all went down on September 22 when the group of us convened at a location in Liberty Village to board a bus along with best-selling cookbook author Mairlyn Smith, Manitoba farmer Will Bergmann and members of the passionate team from Canola Eat Well/Canola Growers Association. Our first destination was Applewood Farm & Winery in Whitchurch-Stouffville to pick apples; after all, it was the first day of Fall! The honey crisps were ripe for the picking and we went wild. This small, family run farm was magical from the moment we arrived and you could tell it’s a favourite with kids from the sounds of laughter coming from the playgrounds, orchards and pumpkin patch. The bright, lively atmosphere was perfectly indicative of the joy, vibrancy and life that farmers (and their produce) bring to our lives! I left with a bottle of Apple Wine that’s made on-site using their own apples, and 1 peck of beautiful Honey Crisps and Courtlands. I can wait to pop open that wine with the right meal because the apples have been exquisite so far!
Our next stop was South Pond Farms in picturesque Pontypool, ON. During the drive up we had a lively conversation with Ellen Pruden from Canola Growers Association and hunky farmer, Will, who also showed us some very cool drone footage of his family’s sprawling farms where they produce Barley, Corn, Beans and other crops in addition to Canola itself. This served as the perfect prep for our upcoming lesson in Canola at the farm we were headed to. Upon arrival at South Pond Farms I was flabbergasted! It was gorgeous beyond belief! Lush greenery as far as the eye could see and the braying of goats carried over floral scented breezes. You can’t make this stuff up. Our afternoon was to start in the idyllic barn, which also serves as an event space for the numerous weddings they host there during the season, where we got the opportunity to get our hands dirty and make some lovely flower arrangements to take back with us as a keepsake. Once we’d had our fill of sunflowers, azaleas, wildflowers, lavender and sage (all grown on-site, of course), we headed over to a picnic lunch cooked up by the thoroughly entertaining, hostess-with-the-mostess, Mairlyn Smith. Our cozy picnic spots, complete with blankets, picnic baskets, flatware, cutlery and glassware was perfection. No foam plates to eat off of here! Over the course of our healthy meal we learned more about Mairlyn’s new book, Homegrown, whose recipes we were fortunate enough to be feasting on that afternoon. The book is unique in that every ingredient in every recipe is Canadian-grown. Talk about eating locally! We all left with a copy of the book so I’m excited to crack it open and get cookin’.
Our final activity was a study in Canola harvesting and quality control. We learned from the ladies from the Canola Growers Association and farmer Will about the thorough checks that go into the production of canola oil and how grading is done even before any oil is produced. By using the exact same methods they use after harvest, a simple process of crushing 100 seeds using an apparatus similar to a lint-roller, and checking to see if the resulting seeds are green or black, we learned the painstaking process by which Canadian Canola is made. This heart-healthy and nutritious oil is also neutral in flavour so it doesn’t clash with other flavours and is a uniquely Canadian invention.
Shortly after, we were boarding the bus back to Toronto with full bellies and minds, and a newfound appreciation for the hard labour and science that our farmers put into their work on a daily basis. They toil year-round yet their yield remains at the mercy of Mother Nature. It was heartwarming and inspirational to see the passion and intelligence that farmers like Will Bergmann bring to their profession. I arrived in Toronto with many lovely parting gifts, the most priceless of which was a new-found respect for all the growers and producers whose hard work feeds and nourishes us across our country. Thank you to you all!
In the words of the hilarious Mairlyn Smith: Peace, love and fibre,