Sean Brady didn’t exactly set out to own a trout hatchery when he was in the midst of purchasing a house near Thornbury, ON. He was on his way to view the house when the realtor mentioned another property for sale nearby. Sean agreed to check the property out. He found an abandoned trout hatchery fed by cold, crystal clear spring water. Sean, together with business partner Bruce Green, decided to fix it up and re-open the hatchery in 2009, after being given some trout stock by neighbouring farms.
How does the hatchery work?
The source of the hatchery’s cold spring water (about 7-9 degrees Celsius) comes down from cloud formation, filters down through the limestone, and then travels below the forest floor, picking up minerals, enzymes and nutrients along the way. The trout feed on fairy shrimps (which gives their flesh the signature pink hue), mosquitoes, midges and minnows. They are supplemented with a feed mix made up of plant protein, a combination of flax, soy and corn. There’s no need to use any kind of added growth hormones or antibiotics because the inland spring water is largely self-correcting – gravity does most of the work to keep the water properly oxygenated to prevent bacteria growth! They also use sponges to collect debris from storm water.
Here you can see some young trout, swirling around in the nursery section of the hatchery. Believe it or not, these trout are already many months old at this point:
Catching and processing Kolapore Trout
Trout are very slow growing (even slower because of the cold water), only being harvested once they reach about three years of age. Sean and his staff take lots of care to ensure the fish aren’t over crowded – they never would add in so many that they go over the natural water column of the hatchery.
They are caught with dip nets and processed at a nearby processing plant. Because they are so carefully tended, they have a beautiful firm flesh and absolutely fantastic flavour. The hatchery produces very little waste, and the fish excrement that is produced gets collected and harvested for fertilizer.
Shelf life and packaging
Fresh, they have a shelf life of 10 days from packaging. Right now, we have these available on a slightly altered schedule, so you’ll need to contact your sales rep directly to order. The fresh trout fillets are sourced from both Sean’s hatchery, as well as two other private hatcheries and two First Nations fish farms. All the locations grow and care for their trout using agreed upon standards set out by Kolapore Springs.We will also be carrying their delicious smoked trout, which is sourced from a wider network of Ontario trout farms.
Thank you to Sean for giving us a tour of Kolapore Springs and providing all the information!
This past Monday, we wrangled a great group of chefs onto a schoolbus to attend our first farm tour of 2019. We chose to highlight the regional producers in the Alliston/Shelburne area: quernin’ = k2 Milling; churnin’ = Alliston Creamery; and herdin’ = Sheldon Creek Dairy. This tour was in partnership with Sheldon Creek Dairy and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.
Visiting k2 Milling is always fun: owner Mark Hayhoe is both welcoming and informative. Chefs toured his small retail shop, which features antiques and curios related to all things milling, while Mark gave us the skinny on his unique mill. Mark has a long and storied family history of milling, and his evident passion for his family’s legacy shines through. Mark highlighted how he differs from larger scale, industrial mills: those operations process up to 50 tonnes an hour, whereas Mark and his head miller, Steve, process up to 1 tonne an hour.
This allows Mark and Steve some exciting freedom. Since they
mill much smaller batches, they can play around and innovate with unique
flours: Mark mills quinoa flour, grape flours from dehydrated grape skins,
cranberry, blueberry flours… you name it, he’s probably tried it!
Mark sources his grains from farmers throughout Ontario, both conventional and organic. Mark impressed us all by sharing that (after decades of milling experience) he can smell a bag of flour and determine right away if it’s conventional or organic. Mark is often even able to pinpoint the field or region where it was grown! The terroir of the flour really is that pronounced, but many of us are accustomed to industrially processed flour that doesn’t have a strong smell.
K2 Milling’s smaller scale, lower heat milling process also
ensures the integrity of the nutritional value of the flour stays high. This
can mean the density of k2 flours may not be what you expect. Mark acknowledged
his products can occasionally present a challenge for chefs and bakers who
haven’t used them before. Sometimes, adjustments will need to be made to your
recipe and process to receive the best result. Mark and our sales team are
always more than happy to answer any questions you have or make suggestions on
how to modify recipes to achieve the best result. The flavour you get from
using k2 flours is a far richer one than many larger scale, industrially
Next stop, we ventured fifteen minutes down the road to Alliston Creamery, the very last independent creamery in Ontario. The creamery is tiny – our group had to split off into two to be able to tour it! We saw the room where the cream comes in and begins being heated and churned. It’s then transported to another room and from there, the finished butter gets funneled through the machine that turns it into the familiar blocks. Once it’s in block form, it gets wrapped into the butter foil and packed up into boxes. Next, it either gets moved into their freezers or wrapped onto a skid to be shipped out.
In addition to their own brand of butter called Golden Dawn,
Alliston co-packs some other smaller butter products including the Emerald
Grasslands grass-fed butter, the Thornloe grass-fed butter, and the Hope
Artisan Dairy butter.
Our third, and final, stop of the day was Sheldon Creek Dairy. When we arrived, we spread out to have a picnic to eat our great local food lunches from Farmr Eatery and sample some Sheldon Creek products, including their new line of A2 Milk. A new winery that just opened down the road, Windrush Estate Winery, came and sampled us some of their wines, a lovely bonus to the day!
Marianne den Haan and the rest of her family have, much like Mark, a long farming history. Marianne’s Opa and Oma emigrated to Canada from Holland, where they purchased their first dairy cow and founded Haanview Farms in 1953. After being dairy farmers for many years, in 2012, the den Haan family expanded their business to open Sheldon Creek Dairy. Sheldon is an independent onsite dairy where they make their whole milk products sourcing exclusively from their own herd of cows!
We were there to tour their new barn. It was quite a site to behold. Marianne, and her sister Emily (who primarily looks after the herd), put a lot of thought into the design of the new facility, relying on some of the ground-breaking cow behaviour research from Temple Grandin. The result is one of the nicest barns we’ve ever seen – a beautifully bright and airy facility with lots of fans to keep it cool and well ventilated. The cows are separated out by whether they are lactating or currently pregnant, with sandy beds throughout the whole barn for them to rest on. Everything is designed in a circle, because that is how cows tend to move. They are encouraged to go outside to the fields to graze each day. However, because of the heat, the cows have only voluntarily gone outside a handful of times so far this summer. They are much more content to stay in their temperate cow paradise!
This is because these cows have a huge degree of autonomy.
Technological and robotic investments mean the cows can feed themselves, groom
themselves, water themselves, and even milk themselves! That’s right: the cows
milk themselves! With Emily there to explain, our curious group got to watch a
few cows rock up to the milking robot.
It’s a super cool process: basically the cows walk into the
standing area where they are giving a multivitamin (which is like a treat to
them). They are scanned to ensure that haven’t yet been milked in the past 6
hours, and if they haven’t been milked too recently, the process begins. The
robot sends a brush to clean off their teats to prevent bacteria and sensors
map the udders to determine where the attachments should be placed. Once the
cow is all clean, the machine attaches to the rudder and the milking begins!
The milk gets funneled into separate lines and tanks depending on which type it
is, A1 or A2.
Another important function of the robotic milking system is regularly test the milk. They want to act as quickly as possible if a cow’s milk sample indicates illness – she must be separated and treated with appropriate medication. Only after any medication is out of her system will she be milked again. In Canadian produced milk, there are huge fines associated with any milk that have traces of hormones or antibiotics. Sheldon Creek (like all Canadian dairy farmers) monitor their herds closely after any necessary antibiotic use.
Once the milking process is complete, (which takes only about five minutes) the automatic gate opens and the cow walks off, ready to rejoin her herd.
There was no doubt in our minds that their herd of dairy cows are treated with an enormous level of care and respect. Marianne and Emily know a lot about cow psychology. Marianne pointed out that cows only moo when they are in distress or discomfort. What you want to hear in a cow barn is no mooing and the soft sound of chewing cud. She asked us then to pause and listen. The barn was near silent, except for the sound of the cows chewing their cud and happily swishing their tails.
We loved facilitating this farm tour, and a huge thank you
to Marianne, Emily, Mark, Bill and David for hosting us on this tour.
Stay tuned for the announcement for the next tour, where
we’ll be checking out some other 100km farm partners!
Partnership between iQ Food Co, The New Farm and 100km Foods
Regenerative agriculture. A term that holds a world of possibilities for addressing climate change.
We’ve talked about this before with Gillian Flies from The New Farm, one of our first farm partners to transition their farm to using regenerative agriculture methods of land management. We encourage you to read the full piece here. But the gist of it is: regenerative agriculture is a land management system that goes beyond operating at carbon zero and, instead, works to capture carbon in the soil, making it a carbon negative operation. Carbon gets sucked back into the soil, and we reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
This is really good news for the planet. As Gillian has pointed out, the potential regenerative agriculture holds to help combat climate change can be replicated the world over. Many farmers are already positioned to transition towards using these farming practices, and Gillian is hard at work educating other farmers in the Ontario region on just how to go about this.
But now, let’s talk about the other side of the equation.
What can restaurants and retailers do?
As it turns out, restaurants, and the Chefs who lead them, can do a lot. A critical way that restaurants and retailers can support regenerative agriculture is by putting those products on their menus and in their storefronts. And since restaurants and retailers have hundreds of customers a day, it’s also an amazing opportunity to educate and create awareness around this innovative method of farming.
Christine Flynn is the Executive Chef of iQ Food Co. iQ is a Toronto-based group of restaurants and healthy takeout that put sustainability and seasonality at the heart of their decision making. They are long-time supporters of the work that The New Farm is doing. This week marks the launch of something very special: Solve it With Salad, a partnership between iQ Foods, The New Farm, and 100km Foods. The New Farm’s organic, regenerative (and REALLY tasty) greens take front row for their summer menu. And they give consumers a choice: they have a suggested menu price that encourages diners to fully support regenerative agriculture!
The Solve it with Salad initiative gives a choice to individuals to make a difference with their dollars in a direct way. 100km Foods very carefully source identifies every product, and we go pick up at The New Farm ourselves. We deliver these greens to the iQ Foods locations the next day, so be assured of two things: they are SUPER fresh (hand harvested only 24hrs before!) and guaranteed regenerative.
Chef Christine tells us, “Our hope is that our guests support us in supporting the New Farm, and that we can share our successful model of farmer – distributor – retailer and have it replicated not just nationally but globally.”
This initiative is the start of something new. We can begin with these smaller, every-day choices as individuals about the kind of agriculture and distribution model we support. Because, let’s not forget: thousands of individual choices add up to make a very meaningful impact!
A huge thank you to Christine Flynn for the information and photos! Photograper for the shoot: Brilynn Ferguson.
For the next installment in our Chef ambassador
series, we sat down with Chef Lora Kirk. Lora is chef & co-owner of Ruby
Watchco in Toronto. Chef Lora has an impressive culinary resume, having worked
as a chef internationally for over fifteen years – including working with
Gordon Ramsey and Angela Hartnett at the Connaught Hotel!
Lora is another amazing local food advocate who has a
long history and strong relationship with 100km Foods. She and her wife, Lynn,
opened Ruby Watchco ten years ago and have been sourcing through 100km since its
opening. For Lora, she was drawn to pursue a career as a chef in part because
of her profound connection to food and the land through her family. Lora’s
parents had a hobby farm, and her grandparents were farmers just outside of
Peterborough, ON. From a young age, they instilled within Lora a love and
appreciation of being in nature, harvesting food, and cooking meals from
scratch using ingredients they grew themselves. Having grown up with such an
intimate familiarity with all things food, it was a really natural fit for Lora
to become a chef.
There are two things that keep Lora passionate and
motivated in her career as a chef: sharing in the joy and delight as her
daughters, Addie Pepper and Gemma Jet, try different foods for the first time.
And the other: working with great farmers and growers. As Lora says,
‘surrounding yourself with good people (…) pushes you forward.’
As mentioned, Lora has been sourcing through 100km
Foods for almost as long as 100km has existed. Lora appreciates that 100km does
‘a lot of the leg work for you.’ The legitimacy 100km Foods offers (since we
are able to connect with the farmers directly and guarantee the products are
local) provides the comfort and safety of knowing with certainty you’re getting
what you think you’re getting. 100km Foods also partners with farms who not
only have great stories, but also grow great products. For Lora, these
connections continuously inspire her to craft something spectacular with the
Sourcing local, planning seasonal
We were really eager to pick Lora’s brain about
sourcing local and planning seasonal menus. She encourages chefs to think
deeply about what you want to cook with, and why. She likens being a chef
nowadays to being a kid in a candy store – you can order ‘anything, from
anybody, from anywhere. That doesn’t mean the quality is going to be the
greatest.’ For Lora, she prioritizes sourcing locally, because then she knows
where the product is coming from and because ‘if I’m going to support someone,
I want to support someone in my community.’ Back when Lora and Lynn were
opening Ruby Watchco, they chose to prioritize local because it made sense with
their decision to frequently change the menu. They didn’t do it to be trendy:
they did it because they intuitively understood that the relationship building
fostered through sourcing from local farms nurtures a small restaurant
business. However, she emphasizes that there needs to be a level of legitimacy
behind it and the quality of ingredient that she looks for. Simply branding
something ‘local’ isn’t enough.
She has two other crucial points to make. First, once
that product is in your door, you need to ‘use every last peeling’ and be smart
about how you use it, store it, and plan with it. Second, ‘good chefs are good
problem solvers,’ so she urges other chefs to pay attention to how the growing
season is progressing. Some years will be great for certain kinds of crops, and
some years won’t. If you pay attention to how the season is trending, you can
push yourself to be creative when things may not go as planned. Like the other
chefs we’ve spoken to, Lora cites the seasonality calendar as a useful tool, as
well as the new growing forecast emails we send out monthly. This proactive
information we provide is something other suppliers are unlikely to do, where
the best you’ll get when you ask if a product is available is simply, ‘no.’
There’s something special about Fogo Island Cod
When we turned to some of Lora’s favourite products
she sources, and she said her current favourite is the hand-line caught cod
from Fogo Island Fish. For those who may not know, Lora was able to spend time
in Fogo Island with Tony and Janice and has gone out to catch the cod with the
fishers – which
you can read about here. The product is great, and the story is so special.
Her other favourites include The New Farm greens. These greens are more than
just greens. Lora says they are also extraordinary because of the work Brent
and Gil are doing and how they’re changing agriculture to adapt to climate
change. She also loves carrots from Gwillimdale Farms, saying they sometimes
‘can be the sweetest carrots I’ve ever had.’
We asked Lora her favourite meals to cook. Her answer
was straight the to the point: ‘anything with eggs!’. Lora and Lynn both are
big egg eaters at home, and that’s also one of Addie Pepper’s favourites (she
may be young but she’s already learning to crack eggs one handed!). Poached,
scrambled, omelette, you name it, they love it. Another one of her favourite
late-night meals is pasta, bacon and scrambled eggs with hot sauce. Lora also
loves working with the espelette peppers from St. David’s, and always makes
time to smoke them and make a huge batch of hot sauce.
Who would Lora share a meal with?
Now, the question that has stumped everyone thus far –
who would Lora eat with, dead or alive? After much deliberation, Lora settled
on a very beautiful answer: her great-grandmother and her babka (grandma). She
only was able to meet her great-grandmother once when she was thirteen, and
because of the second world war, her babka was separated from her
great-grandmother at a very young age. Lora’s babka is a fantastic cook, and so
was her great-grandmother, so she would love to sit down with them to share a
dinner, three generations of women who made magic with food.
If Lora wasn’t a chef, she thinks she would have gone
either one of two ways: back to her roots as a farmer (probably raising ducks,
chickens or rabbits, which is what her parents raised) or a photographer. That
being said, Lora loves what she does as a chef. She considers herself a giving
person and wants to pay forward the care and dedication that the farmers showed
by growing these products in a way that resonates with diners. There are many
who come to Ruby Watchco who want to learn, and having a great team that is
knowledgeable, passionate and excited to share with diners is just one way to
realize Lora’s vision.
We had a wonderful time sitting down with Lora (and
meeting the newest addition to their family, baby Gemma Jet!). Lora has a lot
of wisdom and expertise born from her own family history and her extensive
culinary experience, and we feel truly lucky to have had such excellent support
from her over the years. She is an amazing champion and advocate of the local
food movement, and it was an absolute no-brainer to have her be part of our
Chef Matt would be the first to tell you he became a chef somewhat by accident. He got his first job working at a Kelsey’s in the dish pit and doing prep when he was a young teenager. He kept up with that job all throughout high school, and when he graduated, he made some forays into different areas: for a time he studied to be an electrician, and then business. He had a light bulb moment where he realized he’d been working in kitchens for years and had always enjoyed it, especially as he began to learn how to cook entirely from scratch. He finally thought: maybe I should be doing this as a career?! Matt’s father encouraged him to complete a post-secondary education, so he enrolled in George Brown for culinary arts. After he finished the program, he moved from Whitby to Toronto to work in restaurants, and hasn’t looked back since.
As Matt puts it, working in the restaurant business isn’t for the faint of heart: ‘It’s a really daunting business, it can be really long days and it can be really easy to get kind of down in the dumps.’ What keeps him passionate in such a demanding job? He says at the end of the day, it’s about the people, and there are two sides to that. On the one hand, it’s gratifying to look out on the dining room and see your guests enjoying their meals. On the other, you also get to meet the people growing your food. Their passion, Matt feels, invigorates and renews him in turn. Matt is also one of the biggest fans of the Meet and Greet we host annually for Chefs and Farmers, an opportunity he appreciates to deepen connections. We see him there every year without fail!
Matt Simpson’s relationship with 100km Foods is very special one. How does he source local products and plan his menus?
We also asked Matt specifically about his long relationship with 100km Foods, since as he says himself ‘you guys have a special place in my heart.’ Matt wasn’t one of those who grew up with a strong food history. He doesn’t have a lot of nostalgia or familial food memories that guide many other chefs. Instead, he has come to be a locavore through years of learning in kitchens and building relationships with farmers, and he feels 100km Foods has been a huge component in bridging that gap. When he’s choosing ingredients, he frames it this way: if he were travelling, what would he look for when he is eating out? A dish that gives him a sense of place, even if it’s a specific style of cuisine from another part of the world. At Constantine, Matt has a unique opportunity to do just that. It is a hotel that has a Mediterranean menu, but he infuses the cuisine with Ontario ingredients to showcase the terroir of Southern Ontario. It’s exciting and creates endless possibilities to be creative.
We turned then to the subject of sourcing local, and how to build a seasonal menu. Matt was firm on this: It’s not just about the idealistic picture of a farmer painstakingly harvesting to order, because sometimes that doesn’t always translate to high-quality ingredients chefs look for. It’s about both knowing the story and the traceability 100km Foods provides, as well as the guarantee that the products are excellent. When it comes to planning seasonally, Matt makes a great point: if you are attuned to the seasons in Ontario and plan accordingly, prices will be competitive. And if you find strawberries in the winter that aren’t super expensive, Matt thinks we need to start asking the hard questions: ‘Why isn’t it? Why wouldn’t something that’s grown (…) and then flown halfway across the continent be more expensive? Shouldn’t it be more expensive?’
That being said, he’s happy that today’s diner is more educated about how we source and grow our food, and they are the ones asking questions. Matt is more than happy to tell them the story of the farmers who grew what’s on their plate. He has other great advice for chefs: if you’re paying a premium for vegetables, make them the star of the plate. If you have the room and the means, buy whole animals and serve off cuts to keep your pricing in line. Since traceability is Matt’s #1 priority for sourcing, he makes sure that this translates to the back of house and the front of house staff, who can convey this to the guest. He isn’t exaggerating when he can say ‘I know the name of the farmers who grew this food’ and that is the kind of connection he wants, and one that he sees being appreciated more and more by guests. He says himself: ‘I want to live in a world where the little things matter.’ 100km Foods makes planning seasonally and sourcing local even easier, he says, since at any time he can ask us questions or use the seasonality calendar to help him plan ahead.
What are some of Matt’s FAVOURITE products from 100km Foods?
We asked Matt for some of his favourite products he sources through 100km. Without hesitation, he said ‘New Farm Greens.’ He can still remember the first time he tried them, thinking, oh it’s a handful of lettuce. He was blown away by them and said ‘you don’t even need dressing, it’s SO GOOD.’ We absolutely agree! Matt also loves k2 Milling saying that anything Mark Hayhoe touches is ‘gold to me.’ He loves the Algonquin grits, even making sure he has his own supply of k2 products in his kitchen at home! He also loves the Welsh Brothers sweet corn, citing it as ‘amazing.’ Lastly, he rhapsodized about the Highland Blue from Back Forty Artisan Cheese, saying it was one of his favourites (ours too!).
Naturally, we turned then to discussing what his favourite meals are to cook, to which Matt said ‘anything over live fire.’ Even simple, good ingredients can be turned into something awesome over the grill – asparagus with a little salt and pepper and steak being one of his go-to’s. He also loves making things in a terrine, or different kinds of paté. He really enjoys cooking for family and friends, and hosts a lot of dinner parties in his home.
Next, the hard question. When we asked Matt who he’d have dinner with, dead or alive, he couldn’t settle on one person. His first pick is Geddy Lee from Rush, because he’s a big foodie and eats in Toronto restaurants, and Matt thinks it would be awesome. He’d also love to eat with Alton Brown. And Paul McCartney. And George Harrison!
If it wasn’t clear by now, Matt’s second great love is music. If he wasn’t working as a Chef, he definitely thinks he’d want to do something with music. Matt’s father is a musician and instilled within Matt a good ear for music and a deep appreciation for it.
We loved sitting down with Matt to listen to him talk to us about local food. He’s knowledgeable and deeply committed to the ethos of 100km Foods – he truly walks the walk. We’re lucky to have always had such a great supporter in him, and we are thrilled to have him on board as one of our awesome ambassadors!
You asked for it, and here it is: Planet Shrimp is now available through 100km Foods!!
Making ethical choices when purchasing seafood can be a tricky beast. At this point, it’s not news that climate change portends big changes for our oceans. Business as usual just won’t cut it for much longer. Innovative inland operations like Planet Shrimp are one way in which we can all move forward and continue to consume the foods we love, but in a far more sustainable way.
The State of Shrimp
Right now, North America consumes 1.8 billion pounds of shrimp, with the vast majority (over 90%) being imported. Around the globe, Pacific White Shrimp is the most widely consumed, and is the same species grown by Planet Shrimp. Mainstream shrimp production involves outdoor ponds in hot and humid climates. Most of the worlds supply of shrimp is farmed from Asia, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico and parts of South America. For many reasons, these nations do not have the environmental and labour regulations we have in Canada.
All farmers know: losing a crop due to disease can have devastating financial consequences. Outdoor shrimp ponds are particularly susceptible to numerous sources of pathogens and contaminants. Because of this, shrimp farms typically use a high number of pesticides and fungicides as well as hormones and antibiotics in the shrimp feed to prevent devastating diseases like White Spot and Early Mortality Syndrome.
Then there’s the labour and human rights issues associated with commercial shrimp farms overseas. This has gotten a lot of press the past few years, and unfortunately, things do not appear to have substantively changed. If you’re interested in learning more about the human rights abuses rife within the fishing industry, check out the Human Rights Watch report from January 2018 “Hidden Chains: Rights Abuses and Forced Labour in Thailand’s Fishing Industry.”
So, what sets Planet Shrimp apart?
Much like Fogo Island Fish, Planet Shrimp is a company that is founded on values of environmental, social and corporate responsibility. It differs from mainstream shrimp farms in crucial ways. As Marvyn Budd, one of the owners of Planet Shrimp says, “Planet Shrimp’s model for shrimp farming represents everything outdoor farming isn’t! We farm indoors and therefore control the environment eliminating 100% of the natural causes of disease from affecting our shrimp.”
Planet Shrimp farms in pure and clear water containing natural ocean salt, using a UV and ozone filtration system that recirculates the water every 90 minutes, neutralizing any potential bacteria. The little shrimps are fed every half hour, 24 hours a day. They also cavort in waters calibrated to stay a balmy 30 degrees Celsius, ensuring they are delighted and well-fed. Budd likens this to living in a “shrimp spa!”
Another bonus: since the water Planet Shrimp uses is pathogen free they can use a much lower salinity than is typical for other shrimp operations, which lends itself to a clearer shrimp taste (rather than salt water!).
The shrimp are harvested daily and processed very quickly. It takes less than eight minutes to have them frozen whole and packaged.
All these factors go into producing some of the cleanest, tastiest shrimp you can get, possessing a delicately sweet flavour and a firm bite that chefs and restaurant customers alike will love. Planet Shrimp is also a certified FeastOn Purveyor and OceanWise certified! We have both the frozen large and jumbo shrimp available. We can’t wait to see what you do with it!
An enormous thank you to the folks at Planet Shrimp, particularly to Marvyn Budd who provided a wonderful depth of information and Shannon Quinn for the pictures!
Eggs categorized as ‘Free Run’ have surged in popularity over the past few years, as Canadian consumers learn more about our food systems. Animal rights activists have done a great job in getting consumers to think about the ethics regarding the conditions behind the food they purchase and consume, especially when it comes to dairy and eggs.
This is excellent! At 100km Foods, we really value transparency and traceability, and we’ve carefully vetted our meat, dairy and egg producers to ensure the animals are treated with care and dignity.
But things have shifted somewhat. As the term ‘free run’ became something consumers look for when purchasing eggs, the bigger, corporate controlled farms also wanted to cash in on the ethical impulse behind consumer purchases. Now, you can find free-run eggs in almost any grocery store.
What makes Homestead Eggs different?
So what makes the Free Run eggs from Homestead a cut above the rest? Why can’t you find their eggs in any of the big retailers and grocery store chains?
We spoke to Pat White at Homestead Farm about what free run really means for her eggs, she gave us great insight. Homestead has been our long-time farm partner at 100km Foods. Homestead is both a small grading station and has a flock of their own, in operation since 1983. They also source from neighbouring Amish and Mennonite farm communities nearby.
The major difference with these Free Run eggs is that they come from small flocks that receive a high level of care. Like, REALLY small flocks. In total, Homestead sources eggs from only 55 different flocks with hundreds of birds. With larger free-run egg farmers, they have flocks easily numbering in the thousands.
Pat (who has developed personal relationships with the farmers she sources from) also pointed out that in many of these rural communities, looking after the chicken flocks and selling the eggs is a job that often falls to women. In fact, for some of these women, it is one of their only sources of income to buy groceries and other necessities for their family. Flocks tend to frighten very easily, which can disrupt their laying patterns. Since these flocks are an essential part of these farmers livelihoods, they want to make sure the hens keep laying. They take great care to ensure their flocks are kept calm, happy, and cared for.
What else sets them apart?
Homestead is also a very small grading station that uses less automated machinery with a more involved approach. They have various employees at different stations along the line, all of them paying close attention to any imperfections. There’s even someone who has a special light they shine on each and every egg to detect any interior imperfections! This kind of care and detail oriented attention to grading means Homestead grades 50 cases an hour, as opposed to the big guys who grade up to 400 cases an hour. And even though they might grade a little slower, they make up for it in the absolutely top notch quality of all their eggs.
This is why we have adjusted the description on Homestead’s Free Run eggs. They aren’t just average eggs you can find in any grocery store – they truly are ‘Small-Flock.’
Where have we loved eating these days? Let’s keep it 100km!
We are so spoiled working in the local food industry in Toronto & the GTA. With 100km distributing to over 450 restaurant locations (yes, we can’t believe it!!), there is basically no end to the incredible restaurants our staff are lucky enough to eat at. Here are some of the 100km Staff Picks of great restaurants – restaurants who are Keepin’ it 100(km) by sourcing local.
Where We Went
Grace and Paul ‘s PickKojin (Toronto) – Chef Paula Navarrete
“We were blown away by what we tasted. Chef Paula has flavour on that menu that is like nothing we have ever experienced and that menu is on fire. The steak is obviously the specialty there, but seriously, the top half of the menu was no less spectacular.
Corn flatbread, served with grass fed butter and honey – reads as bread and butter but is a dish in it’s own right. Everything about this seemingly simple dish is absolutely perfect.
Tita’s Mash – the best mashed potatoes I have ever tasted. Topped with cheese curds and gouda. It’s rich and delicious
Sausage Board – when we were there they were serving a “hot dog” (ya, right! if hot dogs were perfect), a pork and shrimp sausage which if you ate it with your eyes closed, you’d swear you were eating shu mai, and a kimchi sausage that was amazing and a flavour I had never tasted before.”
Rachel’s Pick Constantine (Toronto) – Chefs Craig Harding, Rob LeClair & Morgan Bellis
“Mitch and I went in for dinner and were seated at the kitchen bar, right at the pass (prime location for me to scope out all the food). The focal point of restaurant is the open kitchen that is anchored by a big wood fired grill at the back.
After watching a few dishes go out we decided to start with the burrata. The cheese was beautifully plated right in front of us with grilled asparagus, fresh peas, fava beans, and mint pesto. Definitely one of the best I’ve ever had! We then ordered the bitter green salad, Wagyu picanha, and Fogo Island Cod. It was clear that each component had been carefully considered and tested. Every dish was so balanced.
The beef was cooked perfectly and served with a winter tabouleh that was hearty but not heavy, and the cod was amazing! The skin was crisp and salty and the dish itself had some great textures to complement the smoothness of the fish. They sent us over dessert (halva “nougat” and a chocolate mousse with kalamansi) and both were so good I had to steal a spoon from the pass to fully clean the bowls out. I have no shame.”
Steve’s Pick – Locale Restaurant (King City) – Chef Andrea Censario
Our driver manager, Steve, stopped in at Locale Restaurant and had a wonderful experience. The beet salad was his main highlight, and he noted that the service was impeccable!
Jason B.’s Pick – Grey Gardens (Toronto) – Chef Mitch Bates
“Best meal out this month was at Grey Gardens!
The space is so beautiful and was packed and vibrant on a Monday night. Coziest bar stools looking right into an amazingly focused and quiet kitchen. Amazing atmosphere and a playlist that didn’t quit.
Our server Kate was wonderful and her wine recommendations were perfect. She poured us some of the house orange wine and a super funky and herbal white from Greece (Alchymiste?). I don’t know a thing about wine but they were both SO TASTY.
The food was obviously great too. I want to buy the smoked fish dip by the quart.
The standout dish was the white asparagus, with maitake mushrooms on a delicate custard. So good.
Everything we ate screamed spring.
Plump humpback shrimp with spinach, rutabaga, and the August’s Harvest green garlic.
Springy alkaline noodles with clams and a briny seafood ragu.
The best lamb Sausage with Best Baa feta and bright favas,
Halibut drowning in morels, bacon, and brussels.”
So, stumped on where to go next? Check out one of our 100km picks for the season! We can’t wait to visit more of your establishments and share all the amazing things you are doing with local!
To quickly recap, this series features a different farm partner or producer we work with to share some of the history and the story to help you know where your food comes from.
In 2018, we’re going to be changing it up a little bit. For this feature, we have a variety of samples available from Woolley’s Lamb. Please contact your sales rep to have a sample added on to your order. Woolley’s have lots of leg of lamb – just in time for Easter! Their lamb (for reasons we’ll get into below) is much leaner and milder tasting than typical Ontario or imported lamb, so get those samples on your order so you too can discover the delicious high quality of Woolley’s Lamb.
Woolley’s Lamb: A History
Woolley’s Lamb is not just a lamb farm. Originally, it was (and still is) a very large apple and sour cherry orchard, an orchard that is one of the ten farm partners that works with Norfolk’s Fruit Grower’s Association! There’s a good chance if you’ve purchased an apple from NFGA, you’ve purchased apples grown from Brett Shuyler and Carrie Woolley’s family farm.
It’s Brett’s family – The Shuylers – who have owned the orchards for decades. Carrie Woolley (yes, her last name IS Woolley, it really was meant to be for her to be a modern day shepherdess!) is a sixth-generation farmer who studied animal sciences at Guelph University. It is Carrie who wanted to diversify the family farm by lamb farming. Carrie explained that her goal was to create their version of a vertical farm. In this case, it doesn’t mean stacking crops vertically to make use of smaller space, but rather to find ways to carry the farm through the off-season. Initiatives such as these are just one of the many strategies farmers use to make their operation more financially and environmentally sustainable.
What makes Woolley’s Lamb a special lamb farm?
Woolley’s Lamb is only five years old but is already unique when it comes to the world of lamb. The ewes and lambs graze in the orchards year-round (including winter – their thick coats mean they can withstand lots of snow and cold temperatures!). There’s two major benefits to this approach. First, the lambs and ewes are grass fed (and fed hay and other roughage in winter) which means the lambs have leaner, milder meat. Second, this cuts down on costs for the orchard operation – grasses don’t need to be mowed and cover crops aren’t as necessary, as the lambs fertilize and restore soil quality through their grazing habits. Also, since their lamb is frozen, the shelf like is extended, meaning Carrie and Brett can set costs and keep it consistently priced, which we know is a huge boon for chefs when it comes to menu planning!
Right now, the ewes are pregnant. This year, Carrie opted to have some ewes artificially inseminated, but most of the ewes will have been naturally impregnated in the fields. Soon, the ewes will begin lambing! Carrie takes the health and quality of life for the flock very seriously. Each day, she goes from orchard to orchard, checking on the flocks. In the warmer months, she checks on them multiple times a day, specifically looking for any signs of illness or injury. Carrie impressed upon us the importance of taking quick action, should any of the lambs fall ill, to maintain the health of the entire flock. Carrie also makes sure that her ewes get extended breaks from being pregnant and nursing lambs – which is not always standard in lamb farming. Carrie also makes sure to shear the sheep to sell the wool, and has just started working with a smaller independent Canadian business that makes high quality wool clothing as a buyer!
The Rewards and Challenges of Local Food
When I asked Carrie and Brett about some of the challenges and rewards of farming this way, they told us that they derive lots of joy and satisfaction from innovating in a way to improve their farms environmental sustainability. They also highlighted that one of their biggest challenges is connecting to the consumer – running an orchard and a lamb farm, as well as raising their newborn daughter Emma – can take up a lot of their time. Through 100km Foods, they can connect more with chefs and consumers who purchase their lamb, especially because we source identify by every farm. In fact, it is only through partnering with us that they are able to get their lamb products to the Toronto market!
If you want to learn more about Woolley’s Lamb, we recommend following Carrie on both Twitter and Instagram @CarrieWoolley1. We love reading her funny and informative posts!
So – if you’d like to get ahold of some great lamb samples in the lead up to Easter – we’re your people! Let your sales rep know if you’d like them tacked on to your next order, and they’ll be more than happy to facilitate!
Special thanks to Brett & Carrie for the information and some of the pictures in this post.
It has been an unusual summer for us in Southern Ontario, that’s for certain. The rapid changes and unexpected weather patterns kept all of us on our toes!
But the last few days have noticeably grown shorter, the leaves are finally turning, and the wind is cool. This past week has been one of the final weekx for field greens, and it’s a busy time for menu changes, as we are now all looking towards greenhouse greens to see us through the winter months.
One of our longstanding greenhouse growers is Lake Erie Farms based in Norfolk County, and that’s why we’ve chosen to feature them for this month’s Sow and Tell!
What’s on sale?
Both their Salanova and Boston Lettuce blends are on sale for all deliveries next week, from October 24th to the 27th. These blends, if you haven’t tried them, are unbelievably tender, juicy, fresh and a little sweet. As Lake Erie says themselves, “ Salanova® will outperform baby spinach, baby arugula and artisan lettuce in taste, mass-volume, loft and shelf life.”
They work amazingly well in salads, sandwiches, and as lettuce wraps (you may have had their Boston lettuce as part of the Bo Ssäm at Momofuku!). They are packaged as vibrant root balls, which ensures absolute peak freshness and a good storage life.
History of Lake Erie Farms
Lake Erie Farms, like many of those that we work with, is a third generation family owned operation. The Ashbaugh family began farming in the late 1920s, and in those days they primarily grew tobacco and owned a series of farms across the region. In time, much like the Gervais family at Barrie Hill Farms, they decided to phase out of the tobacco business and diversify their operations.
In 2002, they established their first greenhouse operation and began growing cucumbers. In 2008, they sold off their final tobacco crop. Over the years, they have expanded cucumber production and began growing lettuces. Their CEO, Trish Fournier, began with Lake Erie in January 1999, and has been the CEO of the company since 2006.
Challenges and Motivations of Local Food in Ontario
I spoke to Trish over the phone about Lake Erie and her role within the operation, and we discussed some of the challenges and motivations to growing local in Ontario. Trish, like many of our other growers, feels their biggest challenge is competing with imports, especially when it’s field products from Mexico. Pressures come from all sides for Ontario greenhouse operations – be it higher labour costs, rising hydro and energy rates, or packaging costs.
Trish and the team at Lake Erie work very hard to innovate and compete with imports. They prioritize energy efficiency, and have upgraded of their greenhouses with LED lights and have purchased generators to take one greenhouse off-grid. They recycle their water and carbon dioxide gets cycled back in to be fed to their plants. They are currently undergoing another energy audit to determine more ways to keep their operation as efficient as possible!
Despite the challenges they face, Trish is very passionate about local food and local food production. As she said herself, local food is fresher and harvested at peak for optimal flavour and reduces enormous amounts of pollution from transportation. She loves that they are based in Norfolk County, which is known as one of the produce hubs in Ontario. She highlighted how excellent it is that local restaurants purchase from them creating more jobs for residents, who in turn, reinvest their dollars back into the community.
Why is 100km Foods a great fit?
Trish believes that 100km Foods is an excellent fit as their distributor in Toronto and the GTA. As she pointed out, on either end of the chain both producers and restaurants have an interest in selling and purchasing greater amounts of local food. The most challenging piece is the link in the middle – the distribution. Farmers and Chefs alike do not always have the time or resources to coordinate sales, especially on the scale needed to build a local food economy. To Trish, that has a province wide impact because we then rely on bringing in more imports to meet food demands. Distribution may not be as glamourous as growing food or showcasing it in restaurants, but it’s absolutely a crucial piece of the puzzle!
So as you’re planning and sourcing for your menu changes, take advantage of the sale on Lake Erie Salanova and Boston lettuce this week and test them out! You will not be disappointed. The promotion runs from October 24th to October 27th!
Thank you so much to Trish for providing information and the photos used in this blog post!