The magic of the county fair

By Resi Walt

The sights, sounds and smells of the county fair are unlike anything else. The silhouette of the Ferris wheel can be seen a mile away. The intoxicating smell of cotton candy, taffy, and French fries are a weakness for most. And of course, there are the calls from the carneys taunting you to play their game and possibly win a prize.

Going to the county fair brings out everyone’s inner child. It’s the fun of going on rides that make your stomach drop, eating too many sugary sweets, and running into friends that you don’t get to see very often. Continue reading

A history of environmental responsibility

Effective use of resources at Kaiser Lake Farms

By Treena Hein

Eric and Max Kaiser

At Kaiser Lake Farms in the Bay of Quinte peninsula near Napanee Ontario, care for the land goes back many decades. Father and son Eric and Max (vice president and president of the farm) are building on a long history of environmental stewardship as they work the farm today – and look to the future.

Continue reading

Inside Farming: Playing in the Dirt

By Greta Haupt, CanACT member, University of Guelph

Dirt is one of the most carefully managed aspects of farming, and with the management of soil nutrients, farmers can not only achieve great yielding and high quality produce, but can also keep the environment clean and healthy. Photo by Rudy Spruit.

Dirt: we walk on it every day without thinking much of it, let alone the value of it. But to farmers, soil is an invaluable resource and a crucial part of our operations. From forage crops to feed animals, to grazed pastures, to cultivated lands growing the high yielding grain crops needed to feed an ever growing population, it all starts with soil. A nutrient-rich and fertile soil is essential for growing the high quality product consumers demand, and therefore is one of the most carefully managed aspects of farming. Continue reading

Using shellfish to clean wastewater

By Blair Andrews, Farm & Food Care

University of Windsor chemist Bulent Mutus holds samples of chitosan that were tested in his lab to filter phosphorus and micronutrients from wastewater. Encouraged by promising results, the method will be tested this growing season in the field.

(Windsor) – Ontario researchers are testing a new way of removing phosphorus and micronutrients from wastewater. Dr. Bulent Mutus, a chemist at the University of Windsor, has developed a bio-filter made from chitosan, the hard material from shellfish.

The filters, which have produced promising results in the lab, are going to be tested this year at three agricultural sites.

“It’s very heartening that we can do this in a laboratory scale,” says Mutus. “This agricultural scale will tell us whether our lab results can be extrapolated to the real situation.”

Dr. Mutus’ project was one of 17 that were funded partially through the Water Resource Adaptation and Management Initiative (WRAMI) administered by Farm & Food Care. The WRAMI project supported research into improved agricultural water management. Continue reading

Seasonal workers play a critical role on Ontario farms

By Melanie Epp

(from left) Neville Spencer, Greggory Foster, Ken Forth, Donald Deyer and Richard Edwards in a greenhouse full of young broccoli plants.

When Donald Deyer started working on Ken Forth’s vegetable farm in southwestern Ontario, he was just 29 years old. The Jamaican native is now 58 years old, which means he’s spent the better part of his adult life working here, on a part time basis, in Canada. Like many seasonal workers, Deyer arrives on the farm in late spring and remains throughout the growing season. On average, his contract lasts six to seven months each year. He is one of 16 seasonal workers that work on Forth’s farm through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), a program that has been in place since 1966. Continue reading

Family business started with apples, pies and a little red wagon

Grandma (Grace) Lambe is shown with son Dave, daughter Darlene Smith, grandson Blake and great granddaughter Heather Smith - along with one of the apple pies that she's known for.

By Kelly Daynard, Farm & Food Care Ontario

(Meaford) According to the Lambe family of Meaford, their story begins with an apple orchard, a well-used pie recipe and a little red wagon.

In the 1940’s, dairy farmers Mabel and Hartley Lambe were among the first farmers in Grey County to plant apple trees on their property just east of town.  Once their trees began to produce, they started selling apples out of a garage at the front of their house.

In 1947, Gord brought his young bride, Grace, home to a second house on the family farm – a home she continues to live in today. Grace and Gord continued to build up the family’s fledgling apple business, adding other types of fruit trees, like pear and cherry, to the orchard.

As Gord and Grace’s three children grew up, Barbara, David and Darlene were expected to help with the family business. Dave recalls that as a kid, their garage was always full of bushel baskets of apples. He also remembers harvest season as being a real community event, where farm neighbours would often drop by to help pick after they finished their own chores. Continue reading

Building a healthier community through food

By Melanie Epp

(Ottawa) – When Mark Howard first canvassed Ottawa’s Leslie Park Community to see if there was interest in a shared garden space, he had no idea just how much it would benefit local residents. The park, which has always been home to parents, their young children, and sports enthusiasts, has brought a new social group to the forefront, bringing the community even closer together.

Gardeners work in their plots at the Leslie Park Community Garden

Overwhelming interest led to the creation of the Leslie Park Community Garden, a space where for just $15 per season, gardeners can rent one (or more) of the 76 plots. This year there are some 55 gardeners participating in the program, sharing the park with recreational facilities, including a play structure, a hockey rink in winter and soccer fields.

“It’s cool,” says Howard. “What we’ve tapped into is a different social group. It’s much more diverse. We have 60-70 year old people – and we also have a grandfather who’s there with his grandchild who’s 12, all meeting and gardening.” Continue reading

Producing Cranberries and Wine in Cottage Country

By Lilian Schaer
Winemaking and farming aren’t two things most people associate with Muskoka. Yet fruit wines and an iconic fall holiday berry are helping farmer Murray Johnston and his wife Wendy Hogarth put their family business on the map.

The Johnston family in their cranberry bog including Rogan, North, Murray, Wendy, Slater and Quinn

The couple, with help from their four sons, run Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh and Muskoka Lakes Winery near Bala, where they grow 27 acres of cranberries and produce a range of wines using locally grown fruit. Most people think they know how cranberries are grown and harvested, says Wendy, but what they’ve seen in television advertising doesn’t paint an accurate picture. Continue reading

Traditions and Strawberry Socials

By Jeanine Moyer

Farming is entrenched with traditions. And while each year brings can being new challenges and opportunities, the basics of farming haven’t changed in centuries. There are so many elements of farming that don’t change and traditions that were formed hundreds of years ago can still be found on farms and rural areas across our country.
In our farming community the tradition of celebrating the seasons and harvests still continue today. My Grandpa still talks about barn raisings, harvest celebrations and corn roasts so it’s no surprise that we still enjoy those same events today, though they’ve been updated from Grandpa’s day.

When a neighbour builds a barn in our community they will host an open house, if a neighbour gets married, we host a neighbourhood wedding shower and when the grain harvest is done our family will go out for brunch. We make sure to celebrate the small successes on our farm and in our community just like our ancestors did generations before us.

One of my favourite celebrations that I’m sure has been a tradition in the farming community and beyond is the annual strawberry social. Strawberries are one of the first fruits of summer, and were often in season during the last days of school. Nothing tasted sweeter than fresh strawberries served over ice cream and the knowledge that school was out for at least a couple months.

Our small farming community would gather annually at an old library where people of all ages – from newborns to the elderly – would enjoy the simple pleasure of strawberries, conversation and kinship. Generations of families would attend arriving with lawn chairs, spoons and empty bowls in hand. Groups would gather on the lawn where children could be watched while they played and discussions about weather, planting crops, diaper rashes and canning recipes could be overheard.

There was nothing more satisfying that enjoying the company of others while celebrating summer and strawberry season with fresh food. It’s traditions like these that still continue today throughout rural communities. The conversations may have changed and the lawn chairs might look different but the basic tradition of getting together to enjoy good food hasn’t changed – and isn’t likely to change any time soon either.

Farmers still rely on the fundamentals of weather, market conditions and hard work to keep their farms running smoothly – but they also rely on tradition, neighbours and good food to share those achievements or challenges with. That’s what makes a tradition.