Paul Spence, of Lo Maximo Meats, tends his flock passionately. His flock extends beyond his farm to include his fellow farmers and producers of Chatham-Kent.
Paul can be found at public venues promoting the bounty of what he describes as the most productive land in Canada. Through the annual Chatham-Kent Table and organized farm tours he entices the public to learn about the farms and products in the area.
Susanne Spence-Wilkins dismantled an octagonal timber-framed barn and relocated it to Palmyra in order to showcase local products. “More than a garden centre and more than a store” she combines workshops, demonstrations, farm market, and a cafe in a setting that must be seen.
Doreen Kuhn created a hop tasting event at The Crazy Eight Barn. We sipped her hop tea. It was tart with a bitter aftertaste. Ideal qualities to balance the sweetness in beer.
Doreen discovered hops growing on her Watch Pocket Farm in North Buxton. Excited about researching her discovery, especially with the current popularity of craft breweries producing unique local flavours, Doreen has pampered her vigorously climbing hops by providing lots of room for growth.
Joe and Eraina Grootenboer describe their River Bell Market in Dresden as an “over-sized grandma’s garden.” In the spring, they provide annuals and vegetable plugs; in the fall, they pickle gold and red beets, dilled beans, and radishes. In the height of the summer growing season, signing on to their Box Program means seasonal, organic, fresh vegetables available each week for 22 weeks. People pick up their boxes at depots in Chatham and Wallaceburg, or directly from Joe, on the farm.
Kate Do Forno was our farm tour guide. At Nature’s Finest Produce we donned hairnets in order to follow carrots from the field through quality controls to grocery store packaging.
Jason and Kevin Stalleart created Nature’s Finest Produce in Pain Court because “some of the best farmland in Canada is right here, combined with the longest growing season in the country.” In order to solve the problem of having to ship their carrots and onions almost 350 kilometres to warehouses in Toronto, the brothers built their own packhouse and now supply Loblaws, Superstores, and Walmart directly. The reverse side of the Loblaw’s packaging tells their story.
Early Acres Estate Winery, in Chatham, is all about family, Sue and Mike Korpan and their “kids” Kristen and Bryce. Grape vines grow on land settled by their grandparents. The grandparents’ home, built in 1949, is now the winery’s tasting room and retail store.
The Korpans want people to “come on in” and discover the grape flavours created by the unique soil on their farm. A white wine that Sue describes as “perfect for a summer day,” is labelled “Just Chillin”. The label says it all.
Truly Green, a greenhouse operation in Chatham, connects to the nearby GreenField ethanol plant in order to utilize the plant’s waste heat and carbon dioxide in the 22.5 acre hydroponic greenhouse garden.
Tomatoes are the crop of choice because they respond well to the environmentally friendly, high carbon dioxide conditions.
The greenhouse is one of the first of its kind in North America. Dustin Bergsma stares down the fully automatic, high tech, driver-less “Tugger” that goes about its business of picking up and dropping off boxes of tomatoes. Working conditions in the greenhouse are quiet, peaceful, almost tropical.
With these boxed bees, Mother Nature is involved in the operation as well.
Matt Korpan explains how every box of Truly Green tomatoes purchased in grocery stores can be traced back to the row it was grown in, in the greenhouse.
The William Street Cafe in Chatham is one more place to enjoy Chatham-Kent produce.
Daily specials and freshly baked bread reflect the crops of the season.
No wonder Paul Spence wants to promote the immense, varied, innovative bounty of Chatham-Kent, for us all to experience.