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 June 30th, 2015
Canada Day, Meaford-style

Canada Day kicks off in Meaford at 9 a.m. at Market Square, the parking area beside Meaford Hall. From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., the Military Family Resource Centre will serve up the popular Canada Day breakfast of pancakes and sausages. Come early, so you’re ready for the flag raising ceremony and still have room for the Canada Day cake, at 11 a.m.

Activities continue on through the day, with a downtown yard sale, dog tricks for Beautiful Joe, a Library obstacle race, crafts and more. Beginning in the afternoon, enjoy live music from the Shane Cloutier band and Bored of Education.

Then, as dusk falls, find a spot at the waterfront to take in the spectacular Meaford tradition of fireworks over Georgian Bay.

Complete schedule of events in and around Meaford.


posted March 27th, 2015
Enjoy a night out in Meaford

Meaford, Bruce Grey Simcoe, and the Ontario government have released an ad which takes you on a night on the town. Warm gatherings, great food and exciting culture warm up this beautiful, snowy winter’s night. The video was shot at George’s on Main and Meaford Hall and Culture Centre in downtown Meaford.

Posted by Georges on Main on Thursday, March 26, 2015


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 27th, 2014
New Meaford restaurant building a popular reputation

For the last few months, George’s on Main Brasserie has been quietly drawing attention from area epicures. The new restaurant on Sykes Street opened fully in August after a long and extensive renovation of a heritage building, long hidden by the circa 1940s façade of Peter’s Restaurant. And now, owner and chef Steve Lumree is back in front of the burners.

Chef Steve LumreeAfter years of honing his skills, working under a number of noted chefs and serving as head chef himself, Steve opened the Ruffed Grouse Bistro in Thornbury to much acclaim. And now, Meaford welcomes him to town after a brief hiatus.

Highlighting the bounty of local ingredients from around Grey-Bruce County, George’s menu evolves with the seasons and reflects the best that our area has to offer. Thoughtful, delicious and seasonal tasting menus, vegetarian options and drink specials are available. Don’t miss the raw oysters and check out the live music every Thursday.


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 November 8th, 2014
Get a head start on Christmas cheer

The snow hasn’t fallen yet, but Hallowe’en has passed, so shake off the November blahs by planning a Christmassy outing this month. Here are three coming events you won’t want to miss.

Coffin Ridge Winery is holding its annual Holiday Open House(s) on Saturday, November 22 and Sunday, November 23. On both days, you can warm up by the fire with a glass of Coffin Ridge wine or cider and enjoy delectable treats from the legendary cheese bar (don’t forget the hand-crafted jams and chocolate!) and live music of the season.

Meaford window unveiling train

Combine two events. Later in the evening on Saturday, November 22, Meaford holds the 25th Anniversary BIA Window Unveiling. The theme this year is “Silver Bells”, and Meaford merchants will take off the paper to reveal the seasonal scenes within. Food, refreshments and music round out the festive feel.

The following Saturday, the Meaford Farmer’s Market returns to town, with the fourth annual Christmas Market at Meaford Hall. On Saturday, November 29 and Saturday, December 6 browse a host of gift ideas from local artisans and producers, including delicious treats, handcrafted jewellery, wreaths, ceramics and more.


posted July 12th, 2014
Meaford Cider Tour 4 – Duxbury Cider Company

James McIntosh was 14 when he discovered hard cider. It was legal, he hastens to add, since he was visiting France at the time. That first taste got him wondering. Why wasn’t someone doing this in Meaford? Raised in Toronto, James spent his childhood and teenage summers at his grandmother’s Meaford farm, up the Duxbury Sideroad overlooking Georgian Bay, and he was well aware of the local apple industry.

The idea took hold. Twenty years later, he’s releasing his second batch of Duxbury Cider, which is available at a number of restaurants in Ontario, including Ted’s Range Road Diner and The Leeky Canoe in Meaford; Shorty’s Grill in Owen Sound and The Barrhead Pub and Grill in Markdale.

After moving to Meaford full-time in 2005, he read a book on cider making and started “tinkering”, using home wine equipment and a borrowed apple press. The results, he says, were “drinkable”. But over time, his experiments bore, ahem, fruit. By fermenting different varieties of apples separately, he gained an understanding of their characteristics and flavours, and his blends became more complex.

James has planted his own orchard, and makes his cider with only local apples. “It’s all about ways to support local growers,” he says.

A couple of years ago, he began working at Coffin Ridge, which produces its own cider along with its wines, and he arranged to use their larger-scale equipment as part of his employment. Last summer, he released the first batch of Duxbury Cider to rave reviews.

In November, Andy Stark, of the Salt Spring Cider Company, wrote that Duxbury “has a soft golden colour and aromas of fresh sliced apples with hints of honey. This dry, crisp cider has an intense full-flavour with bursts of apples and a touch of vanilla. It has sparkling style full of effervescence, a great structure and a smooth lingering finish that leaves the flavours of baked apples with butter on the roof of your mouth… I highly recommend you put this one on your ‘must have’ list.”

Duxbury Cider

Local restaurants, as well as locations in Toronto and Stratford, were quick to appreciate the unique new cider. “I just started really small and let the cider talk for itself,” says James.

In addition to enjoying draft Duxbury Cider where available on tap, you can also purchase bottles at Coffin Ridge and from the website (as available).


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

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