This past Monday some Evergreen Program Staff and our most dedicated volunteers went on a fantastic field trip to visit two farms in Norfolk County.
Having had the opportunity to work at the Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market at the start of the season means that I have never eaten better in my life. How amazing is it that I can sit at the table over supper and identify exactly who grew each leaf of lettuce? Thus the opportunity to visit these growers is a real treat.
The first farm we visited was Sosnicki Organic Farms – run by Ben and Jessie Sosnicki. This family-run farm is just under 2 hours away where they have about 70 acres of land. From a long line of farmers, Ben and Jessie grow some of the most delicious vegetables I’ve ever eaten – tomatoes, peppers, squash, potatoes of all kinds, carrots, lettuce and much, much more.
We started off touring the acreage and Jessie walked us through each kind of produce they grow, the ideal growing conditions of each, the history of their farm and how it came to be in its current organic state.
We then made our way to their greenhouses, where rows and rows of vines held hundreds of tomatoes – some were shaped like lemons, some were zebra-striped and some were knarly, but all were beautiful, sweet and waiting to be picked.
Jessie and Ben also have lots of animals on the farm – a flock of chickens, herd of rabbits, a horse named Lady Bug, an old hunting dog and a German Sheppard puppy named Panser who followed us around the whole time – running too quickly before us, tripping over his big paws before barreling into the sweet potato crop for a lie-down.
This pumpkin patch was especially beautiful…
Then we hit for lunch – Jessie is a fantastic cook who made us a really amazing meal with sautéed red peppers, garlic and coconut oil; a pork roast with loads of garlic and mushroom gravy; roasted golden beets; corn roasted on the fire and a big loaf of St. John’s Brié.
Man – aren’t we spoiled?
After lunch we proved our worth by helping Ben and Jessie shuck garlic – separating the individual cloves from the plump heads. They’ll use the individual cloves to plant next year’s harvest.
Shucking garlic is easy, satisfying work – once you get the hang of it, you get a pretty good rhythm going…
Then off to Karl Schibli’s Organic Dairy Farm we went on a scenic wagon ride. Sitting with my muddy Frye’s hanging off the edge of the wagon looking out at the perfect blue sky was about when I had to pinch myself. This is what I do for a living…
Karl Schibli is a really inspiring man and the main reason and motivation for Sosnicki’s to have gone organic in the first place. Karl is the stuff that documentaries are made of – originally from Switzerland, Karl moved to Canada in the late 1980s. He was a conventional farmer for years, doing things by the book, feeding his cattle government-approved grain and medicine. Over time he became disillusioned with the industry – seeing that his cows were often dying of mysterious sicknesses despite the fact that he was following all the rules. His bills were piling up and still his cows weren’t thriving.
Through a series of fortunate events, Karl started to tend to his cows in a more natural way, and eventually he embraced organic farming, seeing the advantages it had and the benefits for all involved. Now the Schibli’s run a farm with dozens and dozens of beautiful Brown Swiss cows that roam and graze freely on their over 250 acre lot. He uses homeopathic methods to treat any sicknesses that might exist, and allows calving to occur naturally as well.
He also has three big pigs, two cats and some chickens.
Karl took the time to tour us around his farm and told us all about his journey, how he came full circle and back to a natural and ethical way of farming and life for his cows. He also spoke of the raw milk movement and how the DFO controls the pasteurization of milk.
The girls were super friendly and roamed in and out of the barn freely, coming up to greet and lick us…
This one really liked my pants…
Then we had some Mapleton’s organic ice cream and watched the clouds roll by to the sound of cowbells and mooing.
After we had a quick harvest back at Sosnicki’s, we made our way back to the city – all of us sleepy from our busy day, sticky from the sun and abundance of fresh watermelon…
Experiences like this make me so grateful that I am part of such an amazing community – one that recognizes, acknowledges how privileged we are to live in some of the country’s richest soil. What’s more – a community that honours this land. I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the meals we eat three times a day are a series of powerful choices we can make: who grows our food and how, where and how far it travels to reach us, and what our money is supporting. Furthermore, all of these decisions impact our health and the strength of our communities, neighbourhoods and local economy. We need to support farmers, restaurants, grocers who support good and ethical farming practices. Maybe it’s food activism, but I call it doing the right thing.
So tell me, what did you have for lunch today? Where did it come from? What can we all do better? What can you do better?