Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Props to Crops: The Discovering Perth County Farm Tour

Having immensely enjoyed the Stratford Garlic Festival kick-off of the first ever Savour Stratford Culinary Week, I was eagerly anticipating the Sunday program, which involved visiting some of the amazing farms that are the engine of the local food scene! I immediately knew it was going to be a great day when I arrived at the Stratford Tourism Alliance office in the morning and was greeted by Drea and Tania, two of my Slow Food sisters-in-food, and learned that they were going to be our tour guides for the Discovering Perth County Farm Tour!
Appropriately enough, our tour started with a visit to August's Harvest farm - where Warren Ham, the founder of the Garlic Festival, has been cultivating organic garlic for over two decades. 
The certified organic farm is a great example of a Perth County farm that does one thing... really, really well. He grows many different types of garlic for seed (above) as well as for eating, including the oldest form of garlic in the world, which originated in Kazahkstan (high-five, Borat). But Farmer Ham was also really enthusiastic about his recent diversification into all sorts of other vegetable crops as part of August Harvest's Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which for the first time this year has seen happy subscribers receiving a box of fresh organic veg every week throughout the growing season.
Next stop on the tour was the DeMartines' heritage pork farm, better known as Perth Pork Products. I'm very familiar with Fred DeMartines' wild boar and Berkshire & Tamworth pork, which I sell every week at the Slow Food Sunday Market as a fundraiser to send some of our members to Italy this year for the big international Slow Food convention known as 'Terra Madre'. We're proud to sell the DeMartines' product since it's pasture raised, nasty-free, and absolutely delicious. Not to mention cute - check out the baby wild boar-let in the photo above! Me and my fellow tour group members got a real kick out of feeding the boar and checking out all the happy pigs that populate the fields of this impressive operation. 
We all hopped back on the bus, which took us the short distance to Soiled Reputation farm, home of Antony John (aka the Manic Organic). After enjoying a little brown bag picnic, Antony took us for a tour of his amazing organic vegetable farm. This was my third time visiting the farm for my blog (I was there for the blogger lunch in June and did a stint as a farmhand in August), so Antony joked that I probably knew the tour off by heart. But I was as fascinated on this tour as I was the others - it's a new farm each time, since different crops are ready every month! Antony was proud of the beautiful Romanesco cauliflower that was just coming to maturity (above), and philosophized about the plant's fractal structure as a symbol for the biodiversity of the world's  ecosystem "Each floret is infinitely complicated, yet they're all interconnected to create the whole."
What happened at our next stop at Erbcroft Farm was something that the tour organizers could never have planned, but which was absolutely the highlight of the whole the experience. The Erb family has a veritable Noah's Ark going on at their farm outside of Sebringville, including chickens, sheep, horses, goats, ducks, and even a resident llama! While we were checking out their operation, we were all beckoned into the barn - a sheep had just given birth to two lambs!
When we came into the barn the proud mommy was lovingly licking her offspring clean with the help of a doting auntie, to the delight of our group!
 The final stop on our amazing tour was unique in that the farmers did not produce food, but rather produced one of the most luxurious types of wool in the world. Alpaca Acres outside of Shakespeare is the home of a herd of beautiful creatures - just gazing upon these gorgeous beasts was relaxing. Ann Clayburn (above) shared her knowledge of all-things-alpaca, including her amazing knitting and crochet creations using wool from her animals.

The farms of Perth County are the backbone of our food and artisan scene, and on Sunday they were in fine form for this super-cool event. All I can say is that if the rest Culinary Week is as good as the opening weekend, then we're all in for an incredible ride!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, too bad I missed that tour. Looks like it was lots of fun.