The phrase know your farmer is more than a meme or a bumper sticker: I believe it teaches a valuable life lesson. When we understand the basics of the commodity of food production and its impact on our choices to invest in the shop local movement, we can then consciously make wiser choices.
Converts understand this investment in our local economy—purchasing from local farmers means giving back to our local community. A customer who develops rapport with the individual who grows and produces their food is more likely to understand the impact weather has on available food choices.
As mighty as technology has become, the success of crop growth is still regulated by the weather.
In Downtown Barrie, our Farmers’ Market has traditionally been the place that starts the weekly rhythm. Folks gather on Saturday mornings to shop and share stories, rain or shine, and this year’s weather is garnering more conversation time than usual.
John Williams of Williams Farm has been a Farmers’ Market vendor since 2001. This organic farmer and maple syrup producer specializes in coloured carrots, beets, garlic and maple syrup. His father first engaged his interest in maple syrup production as a teenager.
Williams Farm is a multigenerational operation; John and his wife Suzanne purchased the Wyebridge family property in 1999, and then moved to the present property in 2008. Assisting John in operations are his sons (seasonally), local staff and Kim Kerr, who bakes beautiful butter tarts. The farm sells 1000 maple syrup tarts at the annual Butter Tart Festival in neighbouring Midland each June.
An adherent to organic farming principles, John shared that while many people prefer a short winter, farmers need a good, long snowy season for “a successful summer.”
The last two spring seasons provided ideal conditions for maple syrup production. Nature turned on the tap, and the sap flowed; after being boiled and bottled, about 1000 gallons of the golden goodness made it to market for the 2017 year!
Williams Farm also produces a full line of maple products, including granulated maple sugar, maple butter, maple sugar candy, lollipops and pasteurized maple sap—a refreshing and hydrating beverage full of amino acids and electrolytes.
The rain this year is causing angst for many farmers in Simcoe County. I spoke to John about the impact on his crops. “Flooding has delayed all our planting, so we will have our vegetables in later—I’m guessing by up to a month,” he said.
“With delay, you risk a later yield. It’s the same amount of work, but you get less for it. A good year with syrup will help make up for last year’s drought, but we’re still waiting for the ‘Goldilocks moment’; maybe next year it will be just right.”
Williams Farm products are available at Homestead Artisan Bakery on Owen Street and numerous locations throughout Simcoe County, and visitors are welcome at their farm store (call first, please).