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Country Backroads Lead From the Table to the Farm

Country Backroads Lead From the Table to the Farm

Discovering Ontario's Farming Culture on Two Wheels

"Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: Love. They must do it for love." -Wendell Berry, 'Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food



It’s my second full season of riding, and according to several very reliable sources (translation: my friends who ride), I have officially progressed from ‘newbie’ to ‘novice’.  

As a writer and wordsmith, I actually prefer the term ‘neophyte’; it almost sounds naughty.

Truth be told, I’m going to be a novice rider for quite a while yet. Although my riding skills are getting better by the day and my comfort level with Ruby is increasing, so are the challenges I choose to tackle and the adventures I decide to undertake. 

When I first started riding two years ago, I was excited to make reports to my facebook friends that I had actually done a whole 3 kilometres around my neighbourhood. Three kilometres! Can’t you just feel the excitement? (Note: sarcasm doesn’t translate well when it comes to reading, so try and imagine just a tinge of it with that last sentence for it to have the effect that was intended.)

These days, my short but enjoyable 50km loop on local country roads and back home again is starting to become just a little bit repetitive and has been leaving me with a taste of wanting just a little bit of ‘something more’ out of my jaunts.

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We all know and feel that need for some wind therapy now and again. It's easy to say that you should just point your bike in a direction and ride but as a neophyte travelling rider (you see how I used that there?), there are always time when having a destination is something that’s almost as important to me as the journey. And so, as I began searching for ways to expand my horizons – both literally and geographically – I was delighted to find an activity as unique as a local ‘Farm Crawl’.

A Farm Crawl is exactly what it sounds like; it’s not unlike the pub crawls you might have participated in during your formative post-secondary education years, except it’s without the beer and the need to find a way home at the end of the evening.

Enter ‘Farm Crawl Hamilton’, an event promoted as an Agri-Tourism Experience in the Heart of the Green Belt. According to their website, the event was first organized five years ago by the owners of three local farms as a fun way to open up their operations to the public and share their experiences. Different farms have been added over the years, and the participants are as varied as the farming landscape itself. With two Farm Crawls scheduled for 2015 – one in May and one in July – I decided that, for a variety of reasons, Ruby and I would take on the May event.

It took a full day for the two of us to hit all six destinations on the May Crawl, and what an adventure we had!

 

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As a neophyte travelling rider, I had my first experience with learning how different it is planning a route on a motorcycle vs driving a car. I didn’t think I would have as much fun figuring out the route from one farm to the other as I did beforehand. And the sense of accomplishment I felt when I pulled in to my destination each time was powerful.

There were directions to follow, new roads to explore and an inner sense of direction to trust.

I came to realize that looking for landmarks, road signs and points of interest is far different from the seat of my bike than from the comfort and safety of my car. 

I also found my ‘inner biker’ starting to make her way out, especially when the directions said that I should turn left across three very busy lanes of traffic to head in the direction of the next farm. Instead I took a right, driving down the highway to the next traffic light where I took another right to get back to the highway and headed on in the right direction. It’s funny how making a decision like that is one of the things you think about after you get home and realize that your whole way of thinking changes when you’re out riding, and you often don’t even realize that your brain has flicked the switch.

As an aside, the new-found confidence I discovered when encountering a rather challenging road and how I reacted to its unexpected steep incline, series of twists & turns, and lack of guard rail to my right (as I geared down and didn’t panic), added even more of a glow to my already sunburnt and wind-kissed face that afternoon. With every baby step and throttle-twist taken, my ‘rider’s heart’ beats just a little faster and my smile gets just a little bit wider.

Getting back to the Farm Crawl, kudos to Chris & Denise (ManoRun), Kevin & Abigail (Weir’s Lane Lavender Farm and Apiary), and Jerry & Glenda (Lotsa Hostas/Jerry’s Berries) for dreaming up this wonderful event five years ago and for working for its continued success under the umbrella of Farm Crawl Hamilton, a non-profit organization run by all three of (their) original farms.  

 

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Make sure to mark Saturday, July 18th on your calendars. If you’re looking for the perfect excuse to get to know some (perhaps) unfamiliar country roads, ride through some beautiful scenery, and learn something new at the same time, consider Farm Crawl Hamilton’s July event. Participating farms that time around include ManoRun Organic Farm, Weir’s Lane Lavender & Apiary, Lotsa Hostas, Jerry’s Berries, Harrington Lane Farms, La Primavera Farms, Fenwood Farm, and Waterhall Farm.

For more information, directions, suggested routes (four different customized routes and maps based on which direction in Ontario you’re coming from), details on participating farms, scheduled activities, and a whole lot more, visit the Farm Crawl website at www.farmcrawlhamilton.ca

  

From The Adventures of KAT n’ Ruby photo album, here are just a few pictures from the Farm Crawl in May…

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Jerry’s Berries & Lotsa Hostas: Jerry and Glenda Bargeman have been growing raspberries and hostas for many years.  Their hosta garden features more than 300 varieties of hostas in all sizes and colours.  When visiting you can see their hosta gardens and learn more about growing hostas and what works best given the amount of sun the hostas will get in your garden. Explore different ways to incorporate hostas into your planters and how to make a travelling garden.  

Just beyond the hosta garden are three acres of luscious raspberries. The raspberries and hostas work well together and provide for interesting colours.  For more information see www.lotsahostas.com  or www.jerrysberries.ca

  

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ManoRun Organic Farm: Chris Krucker and Denise Trigatti have been farming organically for over 15 years and offer organic vegetables, beef, and pork through a "farmer to eater" relationship known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). The 25 acre farm includes vegetables, herbs, pasture, grain and hay.  Most of the work on the farm is done by hand which involves lots of help.  Chris and Denise work with local staff, intern volunteers, and their four children to plant, cultivate, harvest the vegetables, go to farmers' markets, as well as manage the livestock.  For more information about ManoRun go to: www.manorun.com

 

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Copetown Blueberry Farm: Owner Charlie Binkley grows blueberries. At the crawl, learn everything you need to know about the best way to grow blueberries at home: What type of soil… how much sun… Is rainfall a good or bad thing for blueberries? 

 

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Drummond Apple Farm (Belvedere Orchards): Owner Ross Drummond grows apples, and not just one variety. Do you know the difference between a Tolman Sweet, Honey Crisp, Snow and Spy apples?  Belvedere Orchards has been in the Drummond family for five generations.  Originally settled by Thomas Drummond in 1869, he began planting apples on 100 acres. Over time, the operation expanded to include land on both the north and south sides of Concession 5 East.  The century home on the farm was built in 1896, and today it provides shelter to women and their children in transition.  The Apple Shack (open from September to April) sells apples, locally pressed cider, as well as locally sourced honey & syrup.

    

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Weir’s Lane Lavender & Apiary: Kevin Beagle and Abigail Payne moved from the west end of Toronto five years ago.  While  Abigail continues to be a professor at McMaster, Kevin wanted to leave the profession of selling technology to the financial industry.  In 2010, they started Weir's Lane Lavender with 2000 lavender plants.  Each year they add more plants, bees, and lots of other things including a native plant pollinator garden and hazelnut trees. They happily provide tours and love bringing their love of country life (and lavender) to those who visit. They make at the farm 100+ lavender and bee related items and the store also includes local and Canadian made hand-crafted items.  They are also keen to promote environmental stewardship for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. In 2014 they planted a lavender labyrinth and in 2015 they're expanding their farm store and working on lots of new projects. For more information about Weir's Lane, see www.weirslanelavender.ca

 

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Harrington Lane Farms: Harrington Lanes is fully engaged in eco-responsible and humane agriculture, and is committed to actively maintaining and promoting bio-dynamic sustainable food systems and permaculture. They have Icelandic dairy sheep, Boarder Cheviot meat sheep, Berkshire, Tamworth and Large Black pigs, heritage chickens, ducks and geese on pasture; this is all made possible with the help of honey bees to keep the eco-system and pastures healthy and sustainable. Harrington Lane also grows herbs, flowers, and veggies for the animals and for From These Roots to use in their unique preserves. The farm and cannery are operated by wind and solar power and the farm uses heat with wood through the winter season.  Visit their website at www.harringtonlanefarms.ca 

KAT (aka KimberleeAnna) is a member of the‘What A Ride!’ monthly correspondent team, and is looking forward to sharing her adventures with you. To reach KAT by email, send your questions and/or comments to kattales@rogers.com

 

 

 

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