Winter Farm Visits in Ontario

While the warmer days of summer still seem far away, especially with the bitter cold that has engulfed Toronto, a farmers job does not end with the drop in temperature.

On February 19th, the Provender Ontario team, met up with Sefi Amir, co-owner of Boucherie Lawrence in Montréal and part of the Provender network of buyers, to visit some of the amazing farms we work with in Ontario. The trip was also a great opportunity to introduce our new Toronto interns, Julia Hendra and Craig Murdock, to some of the farmers in our network of Ontario producers. 

Boucherie Lawrence, just a few steps away and under the same ownership as restaurant Lawrence, sells locally and respectfully raised meat with a focus on supporting small, independent farmers who use ecological growing practices. Boucherie Lawrence is a place where customers can choose to support local, small-scale farmers and learn about the importance of consuming ethically raised meat.

Our first visit was with Blackview Farm in Listowel, Ontario. Owned by Bill and Michelle Parke, they raise pasture-fed Black Angus beef, heritage pasture-raised pork and free–range chicken and duck. Bill is a third-generation farmer, something that it is very apparent in the way he cares for both his land and the animals.

The cows at Blackview Farm. 

He showed us around the pig-enclosure he constructed, where the sows were burying themselves in hay to keep warm on a cold February day while the chickens roosted above them. The ducks and geese hang out in a warm greenhouse with plenty of cats roaming around to keep them company and the cows were happily lying about in the field, seemingly unbothered by the cold.

Matt shows us the pig enclosure he built, which houses his pigs and chickens. 

The ducks, and geese, warm in the greenhouse at Blackview.

Heading just down the road, we met with Matt Van Ankum and Danielle Yule at Cricket Meadow Farm in Gorrie, Ontario. Matt is a second-generation farmer, raising lamb, Galloway beef, and heritage Berkshire pork and selling free-range eggs. Matt and Danielle also breed Great Danes, and we had the added bonus of hanging out with some lovely dogs while we chatted.

One of the Galloway cows outside the barn at Cricket Meadow Farm.

Matt describes his approach to farming as “artisanal”, born out of his passion for raising food of the best quality and taste. All of his animals were cozied up in the barn, except for a few of his Galloway cows, who were outside but sticking close to the warm barn. He gave us a tour of the barn, including the straw bale chicken coop he constructed on the second floor,  which is so well insulated and warm that Matt doesn’t have to pay for any heating!

Matt shows Sefi his straw-baled chicken coop. 

The pigs at Cricket Meadow, warm in the barn. 

For our final visit of the day, we headed up to Grey County to pay a visit to Lisa and Ivan Hill of Pheasant Hill Farm in Owen Sound, Ontario. Lisa is a business-savvy farmer who raises GMO-free, free-range pheasants, guinea fowl, partridge, ducks, and chickens, as well as Berkshire pork. Pheasant Hill Farm raises their own breeding stock and hatch and raise chicks, and Lisa makes sure to give each of the young birds careful attention to ensure a happy, healthy start to life. We look forward to going back to Pheasant Hill in the summer when all of the birds will be roaming around freely, as it is no longer necessary to stay huddled up to beat the cold.

The picturesque barn at Pheasant Hill Farm.

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A Berkshire pig and some piglets in the background at Pheasant Hill. 

We had a great time meeting with these amazing local farmers, connecting with the people that put so much heart and attention into the care of their animals. On each of the farms, it is very apparent these farmers are working hard to ensure the best quality of life for their animals, resulting in the highest quality product. Sefi was so pleased with the visits and conversations she had with the farmers, and Boucherie Lawrence is now directly sourcing high-quality products from all three farms via the Provender marketplace.