Farmer Friends: Part I
Agriculture and food production has long been a part of the Forest City’s culture, but the developing relationships and collaborations between farmers, chefs and community members is what makes this area truly unique - and inspiring. One of the most important aspects of the Forest City Cookbook is to motivate people to re-connect with where their food comes from. We really want to give a big and special 'thank you' to our dedicated farmers, for all the hard work they put into their fields, to be able to provide us with delicious natural food.
With one single bite, you will be able to tell the difference between something grown locally and something that has traveled many miles before getting to your table. By buying locally, directly from our farmers, you know that what you're getting was harvested at its peak ripeness and you know that fewer hands have handled it before it gets to you.
We’re just asking for one simple thing, TRY IT. We could give you a thousand reasons why supporting our farmers is important; why it is better food, why it will be fresher and more, but the easiest way to shift from the grocery store, is ultimately the flavour that comes associated with all the benefits mentioned above.
So far, we have visited a handful of the farms that will be featured in the cookbook. All of these farms have unique and interesting stories to tell, but they also have one thing in common that they share: PASSION! The same passion that drives them to wake up each day before the sun rises, work long hours under the sun, struggle with the weather and face countless challenges along the way. It is extremely difficult to grow and raise food, but it is a challenge that is very rewarding in the end, worth all the sacrifice. It's priceless to see the look on a child’s face when they try a delicious strawberry. It’s priceless to know that a family will gather around the table to eat a piece of your beef or lamb. It’s priceless to watch kids picking their own blueberries. It’s priceless to know you are nurturing and nourishing the bodies and souls of so many people in your community , not only with delicious food, but also with highly nutritious ingredients.
Some of the farms we've visited so far (and you can visit too) include:
MAZAK ASPARAGUS FARM:
Certified organic. Multi-generational family farm that started 40 years ago with Rick and Mary, now operated by their daughter Sarah and her husband Barry Harrison. Focused mainly in certified organic asparagus, but they also produce free range eggs, rhubarb, garlic, pastured poultry and fire wood. Located half hour west of London.
Certified organic. Family owned and operated by James and Teresa Murray, with lots of help from their beautiful children. 9 acres of organic, high-bush blueberries, a few blackberry bushes, and more than 30 years providing London and surrounding area with delicious home grown berries. Located in Rodney, 45 min southwest of London. Sells at the Covent Garden Outdoors Farmers Market during the blueberry season.
CLEAR CREEK FARMS:
Organic. Family owned and operated by Chris Knight. Focused mainly on raising grass fed Black Angus beef, but also pork and chicken. All animals are born and raised in the farm, and raised on top quality grass based forages and access to pasture and open spaces year round. Located in Highgate, 50 min southwest of London. Sells in London through the Pantry Box with Chef Chad Steward.
ORCHARD HILL FARM:
Established in 1979 by Ken and Martha Laing, and still operated by them and their daughter Ellen. With 93 acres of land powered by Suffolk Punch draft horses, Orchard Hill grows a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, flowers and grains, while also training and raising Suffolk horses to sell. Located in St Thomas, 35 min south of London.
COMMON GROUND FARM:
Established in 2014. Family owned and operated by Chris DeVries and family. A 40 acre property that produces a wide variety of vegetables, eggs, chicken, pork and some fruit. With more than 100 CSA Members and 2 bountiful stands at the Western Fair market in London and Horton Market in St. Thomas. Located in St. Thomas, 35 min south of London.
RED BARN FRUIT FARM:
Previously called Marsh Fruit Farm and purchased in 2007 by Darren and Maryellen Brown, first generation farmers. With 42 acres of delicious fruit trees, mainly focused on stone fruits (cherries, apricots, plums, peaches) apples, pears, pumpkin and squash. Located in Arkona, 45 min northwest of London.
DANCEY FAMILY FARM:
Established in 1844 by Dr. Edward Dancey and operated with love by Chris Dancey since 2000. Focused mainly on Katahdin sheep and Black Angus beef. All of her livestock are on pasture year round, grass-fed and grass-finished. Sells beef by the cut and lamb each fall by the half or whole carcass. Located east of Aylmer, 35 min south of London.
HEEMAN'S STRAWBERRY FARM:
Family owned and operated. Established in 1963 by Bill and Susan Heeman. Growing strawberries, raspberries and a wide variety of flowers, herbs and plants. With 70+ acres of berries, state-of-the-art greenhouses, 3 generations proudly reppin’ the Heeman’s name. Providing London and it’s surrounding communities for over 50 years. Located in Thorndale, 20 min east of London.
Family owned and operated by Corey and Laurie Ahrens for over 10 years. Focused on growing a large variety of produce, mostly heirloom varieties using only organic seed, the also raise sheep and free run chickens, have an adorable pair of KuneKune pigs and a few hives of honeybees. They sale mostly through their CSA Program, but also at the Masonville Outdoors Market on Fridays. Located in Thorndale, 20 min east of London.
A lot more to come...
Chefs, restaurateurs and growers are working together to get as much local ingredients on our menus as possible. Consumers are building relationships and supporting their growers through farm-gate markets, CSA’s (community shared agriculture) and our many local farmers’ markets. Brewmasters and growers are collaborating to use local hops and ingredients in their artisan beers. And there is no shortage of festivals, events and programs that bring us all together to celebrate what make London’s community so incredible. WE LOVE OUR FARMERS AND PRODUCERS!
The Forest City Cookbook celebrates those connections and partnerships, and showcases the talented and passionate producers who are the champions in the local food movement.
Photos by: Alieska Robles