There's a surprising lot of interesting stuff going on around here, and this space is devoted to discovering and sharing it. We'll post regular updates on merchants, activities and events. Look in often and soon you'll see why Meaford calls itself "The other Big Apple".


posted August 17th, 2015
Bighead Hops ShinDig harvest festival

hops

Things were hopping in Meaford this past weekend. The third annual Bighead Hops ShinDig welcomed beer lovers, food lovers and music lovers to a family friendly event showcasing 14 craft breweries and cideries, most of them from nearby. From noon to five on Saturday, August 15, visitors sampled unique, sometimes limited edition ales, lagers and ciders, along with freshly made local foods, all to a live soundtrack of local musicians, including folk favourites Moonshiner’s Daughter. And Niagara College’s brewmaster program was on hand to actually begin brewing up a batch of pale ale, using freshly picked hops.

Nicholas Schaut explains the magic of hops at the Bighead Hops ShinDig.

Nicholas Schaut explains the magic of hops at the Bighead Hops ShinDig.

The event, which kicks off hop harvest season, has grown each year, and has attracted attention from even some of the bigger brewers. “This is a craft beer event so we have in fact turned away a few breweries,” Bighead Hops owner Nicholas Schaut told the Owen Sound Sun Times“It is becoming something really that has its own life.”

hop field


posted January 10th, 2015
Cirrus Hill Farm offers a taste of the past

Last time we introduced you to JoAnn McCall and Cirrus Hill Farm, and it’s heritage philosophy.

Heritage breeds are the birds raised before industrial agriculture took over – carefully selected and bred to develop traits suited to the local environment, and to farming practices of a bygone day. They’re self-sufficient and mate and reproduce naturally.

Cirrus Hill Farm specializes in Beltsville Small White turkeys, Saxony Heavy ducks, Khaki Campbell and Welsh Harlequin Light Layer ducks, Buff Orpington and Ancona Dual-Purpose ducks, Ancient Roman geese, Standard White Chantecler chickens, and, recently added, Heavy French guinea fowl (from Quebec, for grow-out only).

Beltsville Small White turkeys, while relatively recently introduced, fit the heritage bill. They were first bred by the US Department of Agriculture during the Depression to help strapped farmers of the era. McCall describes them as “a miracle of traditional selective breeding and a priceless agriculture heritage. This small, busty, naturally reproducing heritage turkey looks like its descendant, the modern giant industrial BBW, but there the similarity ends. Smart and personable, hardy, fertile and strong foragers, layers of delicious eggs almost year-round, they produce a delicious meaty table bird 8-17 pounds in 6-7 months , and will breed naturally in their first adult year.”

Saxony ducks were also bred early in the last century – in Germany. “The Saxony is a very beautiful, productive large duck which grows rapidly on pasture, finishes a less fatty roasting duck of 4-5.5 lbs, and lays as many of their big, rich eggs as any heritage chicken,” writes McCall on the Cirrus Hill Farm website.

Campbell ducks (Khaki Campbell and Welsh Harlequin) date from 19th century Britain. “Both lay very well and will outlay any heritage chicken breed while foraging more of their feed,” writes McCall. “The elegant, frenetically active Campbell has been proven many times to be the champion layer of all domestic fowl, besting the Leghorn in formal competitions.”

The Buff Orpington duck was popular in its 19th century heyday for both heavy laying and eating. “These are the rarest of the production bred heritage ducks we offer,” writes McCall, “and are highly recommended for a multi-purpose farm flock, combining all of the best features for small farm use in a sweet, pretty duck in desperate need of more preservation breeders.”

Chantecler-chicken-at-Cirrus-Hill-FarmWhite Chantecler chickens are Canada’s native heritage chicken breed – a originally bred at the Abbey Notre Dame du Lac at Oka, Quebec in the 1900s. “Brother Wilfred developed a ‘Canadian’ chicken, a dual purpose meat and laying bird, tolerant of bitter Canadian weather, and reputed to continue laying their large, creamy brown eggs through the long winters, when American and European breeds give up.”

Mother Goose was a Plain-headed Roman goose, the breed believed to be among the first domesticated geese in Europe, and might be the geese of the Temple of Juno, who saved Rome from the Gauls by alerting the sleeping sentries of the attack. “These ancient geese continue to be an important commercial breed elsewhere, producing small traditional Michaelmas and Yuletide geese, but are almost extinct in North America. The “tufted” mutation was selected as the standard for exhibition by the APA. Ours are of the original type, surviving representatives of the original, ancient goose, that may have graced Caesar’s feast table.”

Eggs and birds for cooking, in season, can be ordered locally from The Market. Will you notice the difference when enjoying a heritage turkey or goose raised traditionally? As McCall writes on the website, “Duh! So much better than Styrofoam supermarket turkey – prepare to be amazed.”


posted January 3rd, 2015
Heritage birds find new life in Meaford at Cirrus Hill Farm

“Eat them to save them” is the catchphrase of many heritage livestock and fowl aficionados, and Meaford’s Cirrus Hill Farm embodies this practical philosophy. A breeder and purveyor of heritage ducks, turkeys, chickens and geese, JoAnn McCall aims to “help rare breeds of exceptional merit survive for a secure future food supply… [and] see a large, viable local resource flock for each breed, in every county in Canada.” To that end, she sells live hatchlings, started birds, breeding stock and fertile eggs to those interested in raising the heirloom breeds. She also sells eggs and dressed birds to locavores, gourmets, restaurateurs and those interested in trying something different from the standard grocery store fare.

Roman Geese at Cirrus Hill Farm“Inspired by the French ‘Label Rouge’ program of humane, natural husbandry, and the traditional customs of regional French specialty producers, our market birds enjoy an idyllic chick-hood roaming at liberty on lush summer pastures, followed by a relaxed, species-specific finishing program to produce an exceptional gourmet product,” writes McCall on the Cirrus Hill Farm website.

Her ducks and duck eggs have found fans among those in the know. “Waterfowl are almost all tender breast meat, and serve more diners per pound than land fowl,” she says. “Ask a top chef like European trained Teo Paul of Union Restaurant on Ossington in Toronto, who serves our ducks in every imaginable way as specials on his elegantly rustic lovavore menu. Duck is much more versatile than chicken in the kitchen.”

And Sarah Elton, author of the best-selling Locavore: From Farmers’ Fields to Rooftop Gardens” visited Cirrus Hill Farm a few years back and wrote about this local treasure for The Atlantic’s website.

More about Cirrus Hills Farm next time.


posted December 6th, 2014
Your link to local Meaford (and Grey Bruce) farm fresh food

If you’re looking for healthy, delicious food straight from the farm, here’s a hint. We Farm launched a few years ago as a newsletter to help connect small farmers and consumers, and now there’s a website, too.

We Farm is the brainchild of Jennifer Pittet, and she devotes each issue to introducing readers to local farms, their operations and practices, and offering food-buying, preparation and storage tips.

Jennifer Pittet We Farm OntarioJennifer was born in Halifax and grew up in Toronto and Montreal. But since those early urban days, she has spent the intervening years focussed on the needs of small farms. At college, she got involved with agricultural organizations on campus, and after graduation, she became a writer with the Developing Countries Farm Radio Network (now Farm Radio International) – a clearing house of information for small-scale farmers around the world. “I’ve never actually farmed,” says Jennifer, who does garden and keeps a few chickens. “But I’ve visited a lot of farms all over the world.”

She moved to this area a few years back to be closer to her parents, and she began writing for the
Grey Bruce Agriculture & Culinary Association and Foodlink Grey Bruce. Jennifer quickly recognized the frustration many farmers experienced in trying to reach consumers, combined with a lack of awareness among consumers of the many opportunities to buy local food. An important link was missing. Small farms and farm-gate operations didn’t always have the expertise to market directly to consumers, and consumers had no central resource to learn about local farms selling direct to table. She decided to provide the link.

“It’s a tool to connect farmers and their customers,” says Jennifer. “The focus is on how people are growing food and how they’re actually managing their land. I’m trying to get people to think about where their food comes from – what does it really mean when someone says they’re farming organically, for example – and providing tips on things like storage, to make it more feasible to buy more locally.”

We Farm began in 2011, with an email newsletter directed at consumers in Grey and Bruce counties. The newsletter met with great interest, and she quickly expanded to Simcoe County and Waterloo/Wellington counties.

If you’re interested in getting your fill of information on local farm-fresh food, subscribe here.


posted February 15th, 2014
Enjoy Meaford’s own artisanal sheep cheeses from WoolDrift Farm

When you’re in Meaford, make sure you stop by The Market and pick up some WoolDrift Farm sheep cheese. The artisanal pecorino, feta, and olive meadow is made with milk from Meaford’s local sheep dairy, Wooldrift Farm.

WoolDrift Pecorino

While the idea of milking sheep might raise eyebrows here, worldwide dairy sheep outnumber cows at least three to one.

In Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia, sheep dairying is a huge industry, with centuries of tradition behind it. Sardinia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean about the size of Vermont, produces most of the world’s Pecorino Romano cheese. (Pecora means sheep in Italian.)

Feta cheese is made primarily from sheep’s milk. (In fact, under European Union legislation, to bear the name “feta”, the cheese must be produced using traditional techniques in some areas of Greece, and be made from sheep’s milk or from a mixture of sheep and [up to 30 percent] goat’s milk.)

Roquefort is a sheep’s milk cheese, as is Ricotta. Asiago was traditionally made from sheep’s milk, and can still be found in that form today. And today, many other artisanal cheeses are being made using sheep’s milk, including Brie. And then there’s Greek yogurt, traditionally made from sheep’s milk.

Now, a few North American producers are producing homegrown sheep dairy products, in no small part thanks to Axel Meister and Chris Buschbeck of WoolDrift Farm.

Axel and Chris met at university in Germany, where he studied human nutrition and economics and she studied agriculture. They moved to Canada after graduating and decided they’d like to farm sheep. “Because cows are way too big and kick harder,” says Axel with a laugh. “And we both liked sheep.”

Axel with sheep

While they initially raised their sheep for meat, the lack of sheep dairy products in North America caught their attention. “We thought we might as well start,” says Axel. Eventually, after a long, difficult process, they became the first to import purebred East Friesian sheep from Europe. East Friesian are recognized as the best dairy sheep worldwide.

How did they do it? They imported frozen embryos and implanted these in Canadian Rideau Arcott ewes to deliver them to term. These were Canada’s first “true” milk sheep, and the purebred East Friesians have since spawned generations of North American milking sheep.

WoolDrift milking parlour

In the nearly 20 years since their first batch of milk, WoolDrift has built a large clientele of processors who buy their milk, and has become a prime source of breeding stock. And then there’s WoolDrift’s own brand of cheeses, cream cheese, yogurt, labneh, “sheep milk bath”, a personal care product, as well as meat, including prepared meat pies and sausages.

WoolDrift welcomes visitors by chance, at their farm near Walter’s Falls.

WoolDrift Farm Meaford


posted June 1st, 2012
Two Meaford wines the best in Canada – Coffin Ridge brings home gold

Last week, Meaford’s Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery brought home two double-gold awards from the All Canadian Wine Championships, the oldest and largest wine competition in the country. The double-gold awards recognize the best Canadian wine in each of 49 categories.

Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery

The 2011 L’Acadie took the top spot in the single white hybrids category, and the 2010 Marquette outshone all entries in the “other single red hybrids” category.

Both wines were produced from 100 percent Grey County grapes grown at the winery in the rolling hills northwest of the town of Meaford.

L’Acadie
Dry aromatic white
$19
Coffin Ridge is the only Ontario winery growing the l’Acadie white grape, which was developed in Ontario decades ago, and is widely used in Nova Scotia.

Marquette
Full-bodied red
$22
A hybrid of European and North American grape varieties, this cold-hardy grape was chosen by Coffin Ridge soon after the vinyards were first planted, and the winery says it has found “the new standard cold climate red grape variety.”


posted May 2nd, 2012
Food lovers’ tips for a healthy retirement

It might be the fresh Georgian Bay air. Or maybe it’s the huge choice of outdoor adventures and activities. Might even be the breathtaking scenery. But you can work up a healthy appetite here in Meaford Haven country, and fortunately there are a lot of local, fresh, homegrown food to be found.

Meaford’s 100 Mile Market opened back in 2007, so we’re no strangers to the charms of the locavore lifestyle. And somehow, a healthy retirement lifestyle fits perfectly with the “eat local” ethos enjoyed in these parts.

Here’s a tasty sample of local fare you can find within a short distance of Meaford.

Produce and more

Local Meaford Veggies

Jarret Boyd
Organic produce grown in Meaford.

Marvelous Edibles Farms
Organic market garden veggies and berries. Berkshire pork products.

Freeman Farms Organic Garlic
Locally grown delicious garlic.

Beaver Valley Flower Farm
Potted perennials, fresh herbs, butterfly attractors, tomato plants, gourds, squash.

Meat and game

Twin Creeks Organic Farm
Grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb, pastured pork, pastured poultry (chickens, turkeys, eggs), and a wide variety of organically grown vegetables. Twin Creeks considers their meat and produce “beyond organic” as they simulate the natural diversity in nature.
www.twincreeksfarm.ca

Scotch Mountain Meats
Pork and open pastured beef and lamb fed on GMO-free feeds grown on the farm. Heritage methods, principles and results culminate in an artisanal meat like no other.
www.scotchmountainmeats.com

Stoneyfield Elk Farm

Stoneyfield Farm
A selection of premium elk venison from farm-raised animals. No growth promoters and the Farm’s animals are raised on pasture in the summer and hay in the winter, supplemented at various times of the year with grains.
www.stoneyfieldfarm.com

Drink

Thornbury Village Cidery
Traditional dry, hard apple cider made from locally grown apples at popular cidery.
www.beerbarons.com/Brands/thornbury_brand.html

Coffin Ridge Winery
Award winning winery is Grey County’s first, featuring such offerings as Bone Dry Riesling, Back From the Dead Red and Into the Light White.
www.coffinridge.ca

Other food products

Meredith’s Ginger Syrup
Unique syrup enhances drinks, teas and food – produced here in Meaford.
www.meredithsgingersyrup.com

Sunnyside Honey
A family owned and operated business. The apiary produces a delicate, light tasting wildflower honey and you’ll find a variety of honey products, as well as 100 percent beeswax candles and handcrafted designer soaps.
www.sunnysidehoney.com

Ken’s Krunchy Dills
Home grown and preserved pickles, beets and relishes.

Maple Ridge Farm
Maple syrup and maple products.


posted September 26th, 2011
Early apple varieties on the stands

Grandma Lambe’s has a couple of early fall apple varieties on the shelf. The Ginger Gold has a mild flavour with a tart finish and is great for pies. According to one U.S. evalution, the Ginger Gold was “the best apple that we have evaluated that ripens before Gala.”

The Silken, according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, “is an early fall selection that was noted for its unique white gold porcelain colour and for its outstanding texture and flavour. It is a multiple-pick apple usually harvested over two weeks just ahead of and into the McIntosh season… It is firm, crisp and juicy. It is high in aromatic intensity and sweetness and moderate in acidity.”

Silken

Silken


posted September 17th, 2011
Your guide to Georgian Bay apple varieties

Time for an apple lesson. With the harvest upon us, you’ll discover more varieties of apples for sale in Meaford than you might have even known existed.

Here are some popular local favourites.

McIntosh – The popular “Mac” is celebrating its 200th birthday this year. Back in 1811, a Scottish immigrant named John McIntosh was clearing his Eastern Ontario farm when he discovered a number of seedling apple trees. He tranplanted them, but only one survived. Carefully nurtured, that single tree spawned one of the most popular apple varieties in the world. Macs make up about 40 percent of the local harvest.

Northern Spy – Next most predominant in the Georgian Bay area, the Spy is first choice for pie fillings and apple sauce.

Empire – A cross between the McIntosh and Red Delicious, this slightly tart variety is juicy, firm and crisp, and makes great applesauce.

Gala – The yellow-orange fruit set off by a red blush is a great picking and eating apple.

Cortland – Wonderful for fresh eating, pies and salads. Cortland slices resist browning and stay white in salads. Mildly sweet with white flesh.

Ida red – A tart tasting white flesh; best stored until Christmas. Delicious baked, makes a super apple pie, and great fresh eating.

Honeycrisp – Released in 1991, the Honey Crisp is quickly gaining vast favour. Exceptionally crisp, pale, yellow flesh with just a hint of tartness. Amazing eating, but also excellent for cooking.

Georgian Bay Honeycrisps

Georgian Bay Honeycrisps


posted September 16th, 2011
Grandma Lambe’s a delicious Meaford attraction

She’s been a fixture of Meaford as long as we’ve been here, but it turns out that Grace Lambe (fondly referred to as Grandma Lambe) only took over the business named after her mother-in-law the year before we arrived. And it was only a few years before that that an excess of peaches prompted Grace to whip up a bunch of peach pies. “I didn’t want to waste them,” she told Adrian Brijbassi a few weeks back, “so I made the pies and put them out on a stand and they sold. To think, from that came this business.” To begin with, Grace baked the pies and Mabel oversaw the apple sales, and the business quickly grew. Today the family business serves locals and hungry tourists (busloads, sometimes!) drawn by its wares.

Brijbassi’s story taught me a couple of things about the popular (and oft-visited by us) fruit, vegetable, fresh-baking, and more-stand just down the road.

And this video will give you another “taste” of what’s to offer.

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