Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Diggin' Radishes with the McCully's Culinary Camp Kids!

Since I settled in Stratford with my family back in November of last year, I've experienced several local phenomena that produced the "Aha - we really did move to the perfect town for us!" reaction.

Like when I first walked to the end of my street, where there's a huge constellation of sports facilities, and saw a giant group of kids playing ball hockey, without an adult in sight. I immediately knew that my two boys would play there someday too, and that I would have to find a good hiding place to videotape their pick-up games without embarassing them.

Or on the last day of high school before summer holidays, when all the farm kids who attend Stratford Northwestern Secondary School drove down my street in their families' big, honkin' tractors, and proudly parked all in a row in the student lot. I realized Stratford is a unique place where agriculture is part of the mainstream culture, and where growing food is respected. That, and not to let my streetsmarts-impaired dog roam free on our road on the last day of school - some of those tractors were monster, and they were really movin'!

I also knew we'd moved to the right place when I visited McCully's Hill Farm for the first time back in February, and learned about their Farm and Culinary Summer Day Camps for kids. Talking with manager Sara Bradford about the fun and educational food and cooking activities kids experienced at the Culinary Camp, I wished my little guys were a little older so I could've enrolled them. At the same time, I started thinking-up some programming, hoping Sara might let me teach 'the youth' about local food and gardening, which is one of my passions. 

This week, that hope came to fruition as Sara graciously allowed me to take her group of seven foodigans for a whole morning!
The first activity I prepared for the kids was the "Local Organic Veggies versus Grocery Store Imports: Taste Test Battle!" Each of the campers was given one taste sample of cucumber, tomato, cantaloupe, celery and carrot from a local organic farm, and another from the supermarket, and was asked to mark which one they thought tasted better (see photo above). A lot of them indicated that they liked both samples: what can I say - these Culinary Camp kids like their grub! When I asked the children to tell me some of the benefits of eating food that's locally and sustainably grown, one little girl astutely answered "That way the food doesn't have to come on a truck, which means it won't burn fuel and wreck the environment." This was responded by another camper, who challenged, "Are you insulting truckers?!" Kids say the darndest things... I wasn't touching that one (nothing against truckers, but why ship something we can grow right here?). Luckily, the superior taste of the local organic produce was enough to earn the preference of the campers.
Next I led the troop over to the McCully's Hill Farm Community Garden Co-Op (see pic above), which I am proud to have started this year with Sara and her mom Carolyn. Good news - it's thriving!

I presented each of the kids with a sheet that contained a series of pictures on the left - 1) plum tomatoes, 2) cucumbers, 3) green and 4) yellow zucchinis, 5) purple pole beans, 6) fennel bulbs, 7) leeks, 8) tomatillos, 9) basil,  and 10)  red hot chilli peppers. On the right beside each pic was a space for them to indicate the plot numbers where they found each of the items in the Community Garden Scavenger Hunt!
Giant daikon radishes were not items on the scavenger hunt... but my buddies Aidan and AJ found one in my garden plot (above) and the photo shoot began!
Maya and Maia (or is it Maia and and Maya?) proudly hoist the scavenger hunt trophy!
'Danger' is Oscar's middle name. Seriously, it is - so I made sure he was careful where he pointed that thing!
The one thing the McCully's Hill Farm Community Garden Co-Op has been missing all season is a great big sign proudly letting everyone know of its existence. The Culinary Camp crew changed all that as they each took a 'plot' of their own on the new sign, which they all filled with painted vegetables (above)!
I'm not sure who had more fun, the kids or me, and I thank Sara and the McCully's folks for giving me the opportunity to take part in this years' Culinary Camp. I should mention more great food events involving McCully's this summer and fall. The S.P.L.A.T. (Savour Perth Local Annual Tomatoes) Festival is happening there on Sunday, August 29. Slow Food Perth County will be providing heirloom tomato tastings that day, and Pazzo's Pizzeria will be dishing-out pizzas made on-site featuring vegetables from their own Community Garden plot! And look for McCully's Hill Farm to be one of the highlights on the Perth County Farm Tour that's taking place  on Sunday, September 19, as part of the Culinary Week lead-up to Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival! At the Savour Stratford Tasting Tent on Sunday, September 26, McCully's Hill Farm has been partnered with the chefs from Pazzo's!


  1. That looks like a ton of fun! Kudos to you! I'll be looking for the McCully's Culinary Camp next summer! Cheers!

    Tracy Bachellier

  2. Maya really enjoyed the tastings and she's really excited to be on the Internet too!

    It's a fantastic experience - kids get to learn to cook, learn about food...and even clean up!