WE CELEBRATE GUY’S RETIREMENT, AND MOURN THE LOSS OF YET ANOTHER LOCAL FARM MARKET
The pressure on farms and farmers is great. In 2014 Maclean’s wrote “Canada was once a country of farms. At Confederation, four out of every five Canadians were farmers… The most noteworthy observation: Nearly one million hectares of dependable agricultural land has disappeared from cultivation over the past 10 years, most of it subsumed by development around Canada’s biggest cities.”
Development pressure is visible, as with the official plan signs that have sprung up along the south side of Elgin Mills – Markham is planning a neighbourhood and employment lands that will encompass 3,200 acres. It is visible in online blogs, such as the recent post made by Victor Doyle, Greenbelt architect and urban planner, “Farmland continues its precipitous decline… The Greater Golden Horseshoe lost about 32,000 acres per year between 2006 and 2011…” And in newspapers, where we have read about the beloved Howard’s Farm in East Gwillimbury, which sold out to a developer 13 years ago.
Often the pressure involves succession. In Whitchurch-Stouffville, long-term Hulshof Farm Market on Bloomington closed in 2017 following a death in the family, leaving the family divided on how to move forward. That same year, Whittamore’s in Markham closed with no next generation waiting in the wings to take over.
Guy and Karen have found themselves at a similar junction. They have been at it for a long time. Below is a letter from Guy and Karen.
To all our wonderful customers
After much deliberation and soul searching, Karen and I have decided to retire from the market and Pick Your Own. Our farm will now be permanently closed to the public.
The farm has not been sold, and I will continue to grow many crops for what I hope will be many years to come. We are both looking forward to taking a break and undertaking some new challenges.
Thanks to all those of you who have made that drive down our lane over the years, allowing us to be a small part of your meals at some point.
Thanks to our neighbors, local golf club customers, cousins and weekly sweet corn customers from the city. Eric, Rob, Louise, Patrick, the Wells family, Derrick, Alice, Min, Lisa, Gary…… it’s a long, long list, started by Mrs. Gwen Smith who has been a loyal customer for each of our 46 years in business.
Major respect and a huge thank you to the West Indian community, especially our Jamaican customers. Your unwavering loyalty and easygoing good humor made our dealings with you an absolute delight and a whole lot of fun.
We have progressed from hellos through handshakes to hugs with many, many of you and our lives are infinitely richer for those wonderful human connections. We will certainly miss you all.
We could not have farmed without our hard-working field and market help. Thank you, Darryl from Newfoundland, Clifford and Keroy from Jamaica, Cassandra, Chloe, Bob Knapp and my mother, who loved to transplant our veggies. Thanks to our son Geoff, who wore both hats without complaint over the years.
A huge thank you to our longtime friends Murray Empringham and Arthur Schickedanz and their capable crews for being the world’s best neighbors.
It takes a village to supply a farm. Thanks too to our many suppliers including the friendly crew working with Terry Reesor at Reesor Seed and Grain, with Brent at FS Partners in Alliston and Rob Hovius at Stokes Seeds.
The last thank you goes to my father, who facilitated and inspired this city kid to be a farmer when he grew up. I have surely led a charmed life to have had so much fun doing what I love, all the while feeling that it made a difference.
Our farmstead and crops have been (and will continue to be) a source of pride to us over the years. We are deeply humbled and honored that you noticed and that you cared enough to keep coming back to support our local farm family.
Sincerely, Guy and Karen Farintosh
A New Organic Farm Stand is Opening
Sandy Griffiths and his wife Melanie Holmes along with their children relocated to Whitchurch-Stouffville from the City in 2013 to build an organic farm named Meadow Sweet Farm; they are the northern neighbour to Guy and Karen Farintosh. They are Certified Organic and almost a four-season salad and heirloom veggie farm.
Meadow Sweet Farm started with a small 1-acre HOP yard in 2011 and has since expanded in different directions. They believe in providing a diverse and exciting selection of organic produce. They are primarily focused on ‘Meadow Sweet Greens’, which includes eight lines of salad blends (such as Detox Mix, Lovely Lettuce, Baby Kale Blend & Arugula). They worked with a number of chefs over the years to perfect the mixes. Each mix contains a unique blend of baby leaf greens, microgreens and all our hand-picked.
Meadow Sweet Farm has successfully marketed the fruits of their labour to prestigious outlets in Toronto such as The Big Carrot, Fiesta Farm, Pusateris, Summerhill Market and Leslieville Farmers Market. On the side, they operated a low-key self-serve farm stand at their Warden Avenue farm which had salad, eggs and frozen meat available.
Meadow Sweet farm is a certified organic operation. “We like to eat right out of our field,” says Melanie. “First, the goal of our farm is to produce delicious, nutritious, and organic produce. We pride ourselves on what we grow and are constantly striving to perfect our growing techniques. Soil health is incredibly important for us. We maintain this by rotating our crops, letting areas fallow and cover cropping our fields,” she says. People who decide to eat locally support small producers and reap the benefits of eating in season.
This spring they intend to open a full-time, staffed farm stand, offering heirloom vegetables, heritage breed beef and pork, honey and free-range farm eggs all grown/raised on their farm. This is a cause for celebration, as we have read – more farms are closing than opening these days. “We have candy cane beets, purple and stripped tomatoes and purple and yellow carrots,” says Melanie. Their farm stand is scheduled to open May long weekend and they will be stocking it with all produce grown on our farm along with hand selected items to create a unique shopping experience. Meadow Sweet Farm also raises heritage breed beef and pork. The stand will be stocked daily – it’s hard to eat much fresher than this.
From City to Country
Melanie and Sandy were both raised in Toronto. The couple was living in Moore Park with their kids when they decided to trade in a bustling city existence to relocate to their hobby farm that they had been tending on weekends for several years. “We kept our house in the city, just in case we couldn’t make it,” Melanie says. “It was a big decision – the kids, Molly and Max, were only ages 6 and 4 at the time (now 9 & 11).”
Melanie reports that the lack of high-speed internet and natural gas was a shock at first, yet the real shock was when she learned the house didn’t have a conventional water supply – it was being fed by a cistern. They found an old well, but it was unfortunately located next to the barn. A couple of well installations later, they have water, but the kitchen reno budget is shot.
“On the upside, the kids love the school bus – and Whitchurch-Highlands Public School,” says Melanie. Melanie has been involved in the school, introducing its Fun Fair. “We love the fresh air, space, our kids play outside and do not have iPads.” Over the years Max and Molly have requested certain animals, so they now have a number of ‘glamour pets’ – llamas, emus, peacocks, guinea hens, pot belly pig, a few sheep and barn cats running around. “Our kids have a circular piece of land called the Pizza Garden. We divide it up into slices and they grow their favorite toppings in each section,” explains Sandy. “Our meals often involve picking the ingredients first.”
They do miss some things, such as chatting with parents while walking the kids to school in an urban neighbourhood and Molly & Max miss the ice cream truck, yet they put their Toronto home up for sale this spring, with no intention of returning.