And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high…”
This Gershwin tune always brings me into a slow and sweet place in my mind…summertime in the country – warm sun, fresh air, and time for deliciously fresh food sold by local farmers at the market. I spent many of my younger years growing up in the country – many summers soaking up the sun while laying in meadows of wild flowers and swimming in the local river. No city parks and ice cream trucks, but rather 96 acres as our own personal playground and plenty of nature’s sweets like wild strawberries and whatever fruit the trees my parents had planted in the front 5 acres would produce.
In an effort to get back in touch with nature and become more self sufficient, my parents decided to sell our home in the Hamilton area and move our large family 100+ miles north to Grey County. While my parents declared it as a great adventure, my siblings and I had our doubts. Even at the tender age of 8, I was a self-proclaimed city girl and I was not too sure I would ever feel comfortable living in this new and foreign world.
However, as time went on, we became more comfortable in our surroundings despite our terminal title as “the city slickers”. We grew all our own vegetables, made our own preserves, and even attempted to make our own Maple syrup. We bought beef and milk from local farmers and we owned sheep which were raised at the Shivas farm down the road. We also had chickens that were, although some might find it might be hard to believe, raised by yours truly. Yes, some kids had puppies and/or kittens to look after, but my parents thought it was a great idea to give me chickens, and lots of them. I, on the other hand, seriously questioned the greatness of this idea.
While we weren’t farmers per say, we did dabble in agriculture and we kids all got a taste of country living. There was always work to be done and community was of utmost importance. Living in the country is not easy and you often need the help of your neighbours. This time of year in particular, haying season, always reminds me of the great sense of community you feel living in a farming area. I remember all my friends rolling up their sleeves, whether they lived on farms or not, and pitching in to help get the first cut of hay bailed and drawn, rotating from farm to farm until it was all done.
Many years have passed since I lived in the country. As is the case with so many youngsters, many leave the countryside to further their education. Some leave begrudgingly with a heavy heart, others like myself, RAN to the city. Eventually with all my schooling complete I settled in the GTA enjoying all the city had to offer, quickly and easily leaving life in the country behind me…or so I thought.
My Mother instilled the importance of healthy eating in all her children, but lately the increasing media attention and concern about the source and condition of our food has had me thinking about it even more. The desire to find organic, hormone-free meat and the idea of buying local lead me to a lovely farm in Southern Ontario which offers a wide variety of meat including lamb, beef, and wild boar. This farm produces and sells their meat to Ontario families, stores and restaurants.
We were fortunate enough to be invited to the farm a few weeks ago to get a tour by Farmer Ron himself.
Ron took us around the farm on a hay covered wagon. We got to see wild boar, sheep (ewes, rams and lambs), cattle (both Dexter and Angus steer) and llamas, the guard animals on this farm. Ron really took his time with us even walking with my daughter out into the field armed with shepherd’s staffs to watch and observe the flock. My daughter was thrilled to get so close to the lambs and I was enjoyed watching her excitement and wonder.
On this tour it became quite apparent that there is so much more to this farm than the organic, hormone-free meat products produced from animals raised on locally grown feed (grown from seed from local seed companies)…so much more. It was the care and affection for the animals and respect for the land that struck me. Even the livestock seem to appreciate the treatment and often came over to get closer to Farmer Ron perhaps to listen to him, say hi or receive a loving head scratch from him. These farmers are doing it right and providing a valuable quality product for the community. “Locavores” should not miss out on these products and can find their products sold at many local farmers markets.
As we neared our home something strange occurred. I could not help but notice an odd feeling, almost an ache…what was this? What brought this on? Slowly it began to dawn on me why I was experiencing this odd sensation – it was similar to homesickness. I realized that I had so enjoyed the day. Being out in the country, visiting this family farm, was almost like going home – or at least back in time to my youth. I was shocked by this new found longing for …THE COUNTRY. If my parents were still alive today I’m sure they would be laughing and saying they told us it would be a great adventure. Now, many years later and many years removed from that lifestyle, I would have to agree with them and say “thank you” for giving me the opportunity of such an experience. There is a part of me that wishes my daughter could have the same experience, but this does not appear to be in the cards for us. I will have to be content and thankful for the opportunity for her to hang out for a morning with Farmer Ron at his family farm.
The steaks were amazing as was the smoked bacon. I’ll be going to one of the local markets soon to pick up some lamb.