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 June 28th, 2014
Meaford Cider Tour 3 – Beaver Valley Orchard and Cidery

During a long cycle down the Beaver Valley last summer, we caught a glimpse of a rustic hand-lettered sign by the side of the road. “Hard Cider”. While we knew better, we had images of a grizzled farmer filling a gallon jug of his homemade hard apple cider while keeping an eye out for the “revenue man”. Somehow, we managed to miss the more professionally prepared sign at the lane just down the road.

Beaver Valley Orchard and Cidery opened its doors last August in a beautifully renovated barn on the Beaver Valley vacation property John Mott and Judy Cornwell bought in 1997. The couple released the first batch of deliciously dry cider from the Autumn, 2012 pressing last year, even as they began pressing the second year’s batch.

beaver valley cidery barn

In 2007, John and Judy visited a small wine region in Australia and were captivated by the ambience of the small wineries they visited – where the owners would come in from the vineyards to pour wine and talk to customers, then head back out to tend the grapes. It meshed perfectly with the dreams they’d long had of finding a way to live full-time at the farm while earning a living.

“We thought what a lifestyle those guys have,” says Judy. “And we looked around and realized we have 50 acres and Beaver Valley apples, and we’ve got this old barn in good condition that we’d like to preserve and give a new lease on life. We can grow apples and we can make cider.”

Judy and John spent 2008 pulling rocks from the fields where they planned to plant the orchard, and the trees went in the next year. After a year or so of planning and design, working with Kimberley architect Peter Ferguson, they began renovating the barn as the cidery and visitors’ area, finishing in 2011. And in the meantime, they were perfecting their cider-making skills and their recipe.

Beaver Valley Cidery barn interiorThe couple travelled to the UK and to Washington state to take courses from Peter Mitchell, an internationally recognized cider guru, and experimented with different apple blends and yeasts to make batches in small 23-litre carboys. By 2011, they moved from “kitchen-table” batches to the industrial level equipment they’d installed in the barn, and began making larger batches. They were ready to create their first batch for sale in 2012.

2012 turned out to the worst apple-growing year in memory, with early warm spells and a killing frost, and the couple lost their crop. But fortunately, while the apples that did survive locally weren’t attractive enough for eating, they were just fine for cider. They bought the same varieties from local growers (a practice they’ll continue along with using apples from their own orchard), and made the first pressing of Beaver Valley Cider.

“We want to make our cider as natural as possible,” says Judy. “We basically have fermented apples, and don’t add anything back in unless we’re doing a specialty cider.” (This summer, they’re offering a ginger cider, infused with fresh, organic ginger.)

The production from press to pour takes about a year – four to six months of cold, slow fermentation, followed by four to six months of aging. “It’s very minimalist, unfiltered, unpasteurized, unsweetened,” says Judy. “But it mellows out in that time. We do the least possible intrusions and let the apples work their magic.”

The result is a very dry and refreshing cider that’s truly distinctive from other dry ciders. And while it’s not available in your local LCBO, you can order online at the cidery’s website. But better yet, enjoy a visit to the cidery for a tasting, perhaps enhanced by a tray of perfectly paired artisanal cheeses and homemade paté. Then take home a few bottles of your own.

Beaver Valley Cidery bottles   Beaver Valley Cidery platter

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 March 10th, 2012
Meaford area maple syrup festivals let you get your sweet on

This weird winter is wrapping up with a string of sunny, warm days in the forecast over the next week, and our local maple syrup makers are hoping for some colder nights to help this year’s sweet crop along. But even if this year’s syrup is as rare as liquid gold, make plans to take in one of the maple syrup festivals not too far from Meaford Haven.

Saturday, March 24 to Sunday, March 25
Saugeen Conservation Old-Tyme Maple Syrup Festival
Satisfy your sweet tooth and support conservation at this popular festival which features all the tasty treats, great entertainment, expert chainsaw carver Bobbi Switzer, and a step back in time at the Pioneer Encampment featuring a working blacksmith, native re-enactors, frontier popcorn and more. This year, catch the Guinness Book of World Records attempt for the largest sap bucket in the world.

Sunday, March 25
Sweetwater Festival
Along with the usual maple syrup festival fun, Wye Marsh offers a cooking demonstration featuring maple syrup specialties.

Family fun at the Holstein Maplefest

Family fun at the Holstein Maplefest

Saturday, April 14 to Sunday, April 15
18th Annual Holstein Maplefest
Visit a 40-acre working sugar bush for an “edutaining” day of demonstrations and displays, including a taffy pull and ice cream making; a free craft sale; Splash’n Boots Interactive kids show; and an all-day pancake and sausage breakfast.

Saturday, April 21
Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival
Tour the sugar bush; admire (and buy) arts, crafts and quilts; enjoy musical entertainment throughout the day; cheer on the log sawing contest and the pancake eating contest; and much more.

posted June 28th, 2011
Meaford permaculture gardener shares her ideas for Meaford Haven

“I’d like to suggest that you include a pretty community vegetable garden and permaculture garden to set you apart from all the other retirement lifestyle properties,” writes Shawn Phelps. “As well as it being a great selling point, I think people would love it and enjoy it.”

We’d asked for input, and Shawn’s note gave us some great ideas in developing the perfect three-season retirement community – as well as the opportunity to meet a truly interesting woman.

Two years ago, the Toronto-based writer and author bought a small two-acre farm on the edge of the town of Meaford (a short stroll from Meaford Haven, in fact.) Over the next two years she planted a small grove of fruit and nut trees (sour cherry, plum, pear, hazelnut, and Korean pine trees) as the start to her food-producing permaculture garden. Permaculture takes lessons from nature, positioning complementary plants together so they nuture and support each other, without the need for many traditional practices, such as fertilizing and spraying.

“Permaculture copies forests,” says Shawn. “Forests don’t need anyone to take care of them. So you have food forests, with a base of fruit and nut trees, then in between you have plants and bushes that support those trees. If they need nitrogen, you put in nitrogen-fixing plants; things like that. It takes some time, but once it’s set up, it doesn’t take much work. It takes care of itself. And you get a lot of food in a very small amount of space.”

As a journalist “obsessed with understanding humanity”, Shawn has travelled to more than 20 countries, and her travels introduced her to countries where food shortages and pollution are taken for granted. “It started me thinking about what solutions there might be,” says Shawn. “I saw this real movement toward things like permaculture and organic farming, and eventually it became an obsession.”

She brought these ideas to her Meaford home (“Meaford’s my favourite place on earth,” says Shawn.), and her environmentally friendly, food producing permaculture garden is well on its way.

She says she finds it weird that none of the other retirement communities in the Southern Georgian Bay area seem to be incorporating anything like this. “They might have a couple of trees, but they haven’t gone out of their way to create anything beautiful. “And why else would you move to Meaford unless you wanted to be near beautiful nature and connect with it?” she says.

Shawn Phelps in her Meaford garden

Shawn Phelps in her Meaford garden

Visit Shawn’s website at Some more thoughts on gardening and retirement living soon.

posted June 2nd, 2011
Don’t miss Meaford’s first Farmer’s Market of the year

Head down to Meaford Harbour tomorrow afternoon, and you’ll find yourself drawn by the delicious scents, the sounds of music, and the hustle and bustle by the Rotary Pavilion. Meaford’s Farmers’ Market kicks off its fifth season this week, and will be open to welcome you from 3 to 7 p.m. every Friday through Thanksgiving weekend.

Meaford Farmers' Market offers great food

You’ll find locally grown seasonal fruit and vegetables, locally raised meat, and freshly baked goods, including treats and beverages you don’t have to wait till you get home to enjoy.

Meaford Farmer's Market

But it’s not only about food. You’ll also find crafts, children’s activities, and music. This year, the opening day musical act is none other than “Bored of Education”, who’ll rock out The Meaford Independent Music Tent. (This group of teachers and students from Meaford’s Georgian Bay Secondary school is a legend in its own lunchtime, a veritable study in musical talent, and in a definite class of its own.)

To learn more about the vendors at the Meaford Farmers’ Market click here.