Tag Archives: localfood

100km Foods Chef Profile – Jason & Nicole Sawatsky, The Yellow Pear

man and woman standing in kitchen

Welcome to the fifth, and final, profile in our chef series! Jason and Nicole Sawatsky are the Chef owners of The Yellow Pear in St. Catharines, ON. The Yellow Pear represents many iterations of farm-to-table food: it is a food truck, event catering, AND an extremely popular brunch spot in St. Catharines, ON.

Chefs Jay and Nicole’s paths to becoming chefs were very similar ones. They both loved food and loved learning how to cook early in their childhoods. It was always expected by everyone who knew them that they’d pursue careers in the food industry. They first met each other when they were in culinary school together and ended up being assigned as lab partners. They immediately connected, but at the time, Nicole was in a relationship with someone else. School ended and they parted ways, forging their own paths working in kitchens across Toronto and Southern Ontario. A few years later, Nicole reached out again to Jay on a whim to ask him on a date. Two weeks later, they’d moved in together! Now, they are coming up to their ten year wedding anniversary.

The Evolution of The Yellow Pear

man and woman sitting at table smiling at each other

They began The Yellow Pear back in 2013. So named, by the way, after a variety of heirloom tomato they grew in their backyard! By that point, they’d both worked in an array of restaurants and settled in St. Catharines. They wanted to work for themselves but didn’t yet feel they were in a position to take on the financial risk of a bricks-and-mortar restaurant. They settled on the idea of a farm-to-fork food truck, doing mostly event catering. Being based in St. Catherines and so close to Niagara-on-the-lake, they decided they’d drive their truck to farms in the region and base their event menus on what was available at the time. Fun fact: theirs was the first solar powered, propane free, generator free food truck in North America!

Their concept behind The Yellow Pear turned out to be an enormous success, and they very quickly built up their event business focusing on catering weddings. They’d sit down with the bride and groom and get a sense of what kind of meals they wanted to serve, but they left it up to chance and only created the final menu based off what Nicole and Jay could source from farms that week. As Nicole explains, they wanted to ‘give them something they’re not going to get at home or anywhere. Let’s make it special.’ It’s easier to do that ‘when you have great ingredients.’ They still cater weddings and the menus continue to be made with at least 90% Ontario grown ingredients. That’s spectacular!

Eventually, their business expanded to the point where they needed a prep kitchen & storage space. They hadn’t actually decided on opening a sit-down restaurant until they were shown the location by their realtor, and they realized it would make a perfect brunch spot. Thus, The Yellow Pear opened its doors back in October 2017.

They’ve been in the food business for a long time now, and to stay motivated, there are two things that play a big role. One, they feel lucky to live on the doorstep of the lush Niagara region. Being so close to so many farms and wineries keeps them connected to their vision. Second, seeing what their peers are doing with local food continues to inspire them.

two chefs smiling and looking at eachother while standing in kitchen

100km Foods is their core supplier, since they curate a menu that is over 90% local. In the early days, Nicole would drive around to each farm herself. But as their business grew, that became impossible to continue. 100km Foods was an ‘amazing’ fit for them, letting them continue to source products from some of the same farmers as before and be introduced to new ones.

We asked their advice to sourcing local and planning seasonally. Jay says ‘you have to be smart about it!’ Nicole, who does the ordering, says ‘It’s pretty easy with 100km. Financially, it all works out.’ This is in part because the labour time needed to work with the ingredients is less, since they are of such ‘high quality.’ When it comes to being seasonal, they have a lot of flexibility. Nicole and Jay develop their specials and their menus based on what is available and switch it up all the time. They love the ability to showcase their creativity in this way, which keeps it exciting for them! One of the things they love best is the excitement they share with their diners, who are often being introduced to heirloom varieties of vegetables they may never have eaten before.

Favourite products?

Since Jay and Nicole source almost entirely from 100km, they have plenty of favourite products. They love the eggs from Homestead, Seed to Sausage products, the Sheldon Creek and Harmony dairy products – especially the egg nog! K2 milling products are a huge hit, as well. They love the New Farm greens and one of their newest favourites is Planet Shrimp. For the food truck events especially, they LOVE the Welsh Bros Corn. Nicole loves the huge cheese selection, saying a recent favourite of hers has been the Game Changer from Stonetown Cheese.

When it comes to what they love to cook, Jay and Nicole both said Welsh Bros. sweet corn is one of their favourites. They do a Mexican-style street corn off their truck and some weeks they go through hundreds of cobs. They also get pallets of firewood from Warner’s Farm to cook and grill over the fire in the summer months.

Next, our question that stumped everyone! Who would they have dinner with, dead or alive? Jay decided he would like to have dinner with his Oma, who was a huge influence on Jay growing up and a wonderful home cook. Nicole decided on Lady Gaga! Nicole said Lady Gaga seems like she’d enjoy a variety of food, and Nicole would take it one step further and would love to cook for her someday!

If they weren’t chefs, what would they be doing?

Jay said once upon a time, he considered being an architect. But now, if he wasn’t a chef, he’s certain he’d still be connected to food by becoming a farmer. At the end of the day though, Jay says ‘I’ve never really second guessed my career, so I haven’t really thought about that. No, I love my job. It’s hard work, but I love my job.’ Nicole said she’d still like to be a chef, but she’d love to ‘be a chef in Europe!’ She admires and respects the food culture in Europe and would love to learn from the chefs in that region.

man and woman sitting at table

We had a fantastic time sitting down with Jay and Nicole. They are such a great team and are transforming the food scene in their corner of St. Catharines. They have woven local food into their business every step of the way, and we are so impressed by their steadfast commitment – so of course they are a wonderful addition to our group of ambassadors! Next time you’re in St. Catharines, we recommend making a reservation at The Yellow Pear for brunch!

Written By: Genrys Goodchild

Photos By: Sara May

100km Foods Chef Profile – Taylor McMeekin, The Chase

Male chef, bearded with tattoos, standing in kitchen with a plate of food.

Next in our series: we sat down with Chef Taylor McMeekin, the executive chef from The Chase in Toronto. The Chase is known for being a fine dining establishment focused on fish and seafood, however, they have made a sustainability commitment and their restaurant menu is now 25% plant based!

Like all our other ambassadors, Chef Taylor has a long history working with 100km Foods as distribution partner. Taylor joined the team at the Chase just over a year and a half ago, but before that he was working at the Air Canada Centre. For the many years as a chef at various establishments, Taylor has worked with 100km Foods.

Why local food?

Taylor’s commitment for local food stems partly from his rural upbringing. He has many great memories as a kid of hiking and exploring Grey County with his parents. Some of Taylor’s fondest memories include foraging with his parents and cooking what they found in the bush, and Taylor still enjoys foraging to this day! He also spent a lot of time on farms, as most of his family members and community were farmers. Taylor started working in kitchens when he was 13 years old as a dishwasher. He loved the intense energy of the kitchen right from the start, and has stayed working in kitchens ever since! One of the things that has kept him going all these years is the fantastic people he has met in the restaurant industry. As Taylor says, ‘the passion that surrounds you keeps the passion within.’

Taylor’s rural roots is a huge factor into why he has pushed for a commitment to sourcing local food wherever he has worked. Growing up in Grey County, he learned plenty about produce. When he was in his late teens, Taylor moved to Bruce County for work, where he learned about animal husbandry. It was always important to him to support the local, rural economy through the purchasing power of restaurants in the city. For him, it’s a way to ‘come full circle.’ Of the different distributors Taylor has worked with, he says ‘100km has always been the most reliable. Always gave us the best information, always good working with them.’

Male chef, bearded with tattoos, leaning over a counter and plating a dish.

Planning seasonally?

When we asked Taylor about advice for other chefs to plan a seasonal menu and source local, he joked and said ‘work harder to get it done!’ Jokes aside, being strategic about planning your menu does take some effort. But the payoff is certainly worth it, since ‘it’s going to be closer to you and tasting better and going to be fresher, you’re also reducing your carbon footprint through transportation and supporting the local economy. It’s really a ‘no brainer’ for a sustainable choice.

Another thing Taylor swears by: using the Seasonality Calendar available through the 100km Foods website, calling it ‘one of the greatest tools ever made.’ Taylor says it’s very in-depth, and though as a chef he feels its important to have a general idea of seasonality, when you’re sitting down in the middle of February to plan the spring/summer menus, it helps to be able to pull it up and refresh your memory! He also appreciates the ongoing conversation 100km Foods provides around how the season is progressing, especially when the weather can be deeply unpredictable. We chatted about a spring a few years past where there were so many torrential downpours which affected availability. Taylor remembers that spring keenly, recalling a foraging trip with his uncle to find ramps and losing not one, but both of his rubber boots and finishing their trek barefoot!

We turned next to discussing Taylor’s favourite products to source through 100km. He is a big fan of Mark Hayhoe from k2 Milling, saying he goes through ‘a ton of different products,’ and that they are ‘doing a fantastic job!’ He also loves all the Fogo Island Fish products. The honey vinegars from Ontario Honey Creations are another of his staple products, and all of the oils from Pristine Gourmet. The Chase also gets all their dairy from Hewitts and use the Golden Dawn butter from Alliston Creamery on their menus.

Favourite products?

We asked Taylor what his favourite dish to cook was, and he said he didn’t have an answer. He loves everything he gets to cook and never fails to enjoy the satisfaction he gets from having all the different components of a dish come together. So, we asked him then, what are some of his favourite foods to eat? He (unsurprisingly, since he’s the executive chef at a seafood restaurant) said he loves to eat fish and seafood. However – his ‘desert island’ choice would probably be all the varieties of onions and farm-fresh eggs. You can’t go wrong with that choice!

We turned next to discussing who he’d want to have dinner with. He said his ‘chef’ answer is definitely the late Anthony Bourdain, but other people he’d love to chat with include the authors William S. Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson.

Two dishes of pasta and salad on a table with cutlery and water glasses.

And if he wasn’t a chef? Taylor thinks he’d go right back to his roots and be a farmer. He loves the physicality of the job and needing to be consistent and on top of things – he thinks it’s a very close fit to what he treasures about being a chef.

At the end of the day, Taylor wants to continue to innovate how restaurants source and plan menus to prioritize sustainability. He thinks often about the impact human society is having on the planet and would love to, some day, be involved with more programs that are focused on sustainability.

Bearded male chef with glasses, smiling and standing in a kitchen.

We loved chatting with Taylor and were very spoiled when he cooked us a delicious plant-based lunch afterwards. Taylor is such a warm, kind and funny person whose culinary talent and commitment to local food and sustainability shines through in everything he does. We feel so lucky to be able to include him as an ambassador for 100km Foods!

Written By: Genrys Goodchild

Photos By: Sara May

100kmfoods, localfood, torontoeats, constantine, mattsimpson, 100kmfoodsambassador

100km Foods Chef Profile – Matt Simpson, Constantine

100km Foods and Chef Matt Simpson

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! 

Tall, bearded male chef wearing an apron and standing in restaurant with arms folded.

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.  

Tall bearded male chef standing in pass of restaurant kitchen, cooking utensils in background.

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! 

Written By: Genrys Goodchild

Pictures By: Sara May

100km Restaurant Picks Spring/Summer 2018!

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 Pick  Kojin (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.

Highlights:

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

picture of cod on a grey plate with yellow dusting and orange vegetables
Fogo Island Cod at Constantine Restaurant

“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 PickGrey 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!

ontag, localfood, 100kmfoods, fishervillegreenhouses

Fisherville’s Finest!

Fisherville’s Finest

The month of May’s Sow and Tell features Fisherville Greenhouses, one of our newest farm partners! As Cindy Mueller says herself, she and Ron have farming in their blood. Both Cindy and Ron grew up on family farms, and they both studied horticulture at Guelph University. In fact, that’s where they met! After finishing their respective MsC’s, Cindy spent time working in flower greenhouses. They’ve always had a dream of buying their own farm and running their own business, and in 2006 that dream came to fruition when they bought their farm located in Fisherville, Ontario. The farm also came with ½ acre greenhouses, which is where most of their non-certified organic greens and veggies are grown.

woman kneeling down in a greenhouse picking leaves

Our team was lucky enough to go visit Cindy at the farm earlier in the week to tour the greenhouses and learn more about how they farm. Cindy and Ron have organized their greenhouses together, but Ron spends most of his time off-site working as a plant nutritionist in Guelph (often with wineries). It’s Cindy who does the majority of the farm work and runs their CSA program with over 50 members, and their three kids help out on the weekends.

How did things work in the beginning?

In the early years of their farm, Cindy and Ron primarily grew grape tomatoes. Part of why they chose tomatoes in the beginning was because the water in Fisherville is very high in sulphur, which yields great tasting tomatoes! Eventually, however, market forces changed and growing just tomatoes stopped being financially stable. So like many of the farms we work with, Cindy and Ron decided it was time to innovate, which is why they began their CSA program. (For those who may not know, CSA stands for community supported agriculture and involves buying very small shares in a farm and getting a weekly household box of assorted produce during the season direct from the farm).

grape tomatoes on a vine with orange and green

In addition to their CSA program, they have enjoyed branching out to sell to us – their very first local distribution partner! As Cindy joked to us, ‘we’ve been searching for you guys for 10 years!’. Cindy pointed out that in the earlier days, they were selling tomatoes to some restaurants in the Guelph region. But in addition to running a farm and raising a family, getting produce to chefs became too much of a logistical challenge. This is something we hear from our farms a lot. Logistics and distribution might not be the most romantic or cool link in the food chain, but it’s a crucial one!

What do they grow, and how do they grow it?

Cindy and Ron love to experiment, and are constantly testing out new crops. Since it’s two smaller greenhouses, they have a lot of freedom to try things out. One of the cool things they have done was plant dwarf cherry trees to act as hedges between sections. Below is a picture of the greenhouses with lots of different varieties!

colourful rows of greens in a green house

As we walked through the greenhouses, Cindy gave us a better sense of their biological practices and principals that guide Fisherville. All of their greens are non-certified organic. They do their best to manage everything with biological controls, which includes integrated pest management systems. They use parasitic wasps for white flies, persimilis for spider mites, and they have used banker plants before for aphids. If IPM doesn’t work, they will only ever spray using organic sprays. Cindy keeps some pesticides on hand for the other greenhouse, but as she pointed out, she can’t remember the last time those were used.

green lettuce with red veins in soil

In time for this feature, Fisherville has added some new varieties to their listing: beefsteak tomatoes, baby romaine lettuce, bull’s blood beet greens and ruby red swiss chard! As the season progresses, lots more products will become available. We’re looking forward to seeing what Cindy and Ron have in store!

By: Genrys Goodchild

Ring in Spring with Edible Flowers!

Trend Aquafresh

Let’s ignore the fact that – almost a month into spring – this weather has been decidedly cold and sometimes snowy. It’s spring in our hearts and maybe on our plates – and what better way to celebrate spring with beautiful edible flowers and herbs? Trend Aquafresh is the latest in our Sow and Tell series. Mini pansies, butterfly leaves, lemon thyme and Moroccan mint are on sale, for all deliveries from April 17th to April 20th, 2018! Find them in the ‘sale’ category on our website.

row of tiny orange and red nasturtium plants in a greenhouse

What’s their story?

Trend Aquafresh is a large aquaponic facility located in Niagara-on-the-lake, and is owned by Ton and Jackie Boekstyn. Ton emigrated from the Netherlands to Canada in 1987, and established a successful cut flower and potted plant business, with his flowers oftentimes being exported to Europe. Eventually, Ton and Jackie decided they wanted to shift their focus in 2014. Instead of growing cut flowers exported overseas, they wanted to become certified organic and build an aquaponic facility to cultivate fresh, vibrant, and tasty edible flowers, herbs, and greens for local markets! We began working with Trend in 2016 and immediately loved the beauty and hefty flavour of their products.

Back in the summer, our team took some trips out to tour the facility and spend some time chatting with Ton. Ton told us that building an organic, aquaponic facility was a huge challenge, and at times they felt overwhelmed with their task. The hard work has paid off but, even now, they are the only facility of its kind in Ontario, and possibly even in Canada!

We explored the huge facility with Ton, trying little bits of herbs and flowers as he explained how his operation works. Ton found it particularly amusing to watch us try some of the more unique products with strong flavours, laughing to himself about our reactions! Ton has a great sense of humour and really knows his stuff. He also wants to share his knowledge – if he wasn’t running Trend – he would spend his time doing research and assisting others in learning how to become more self-sufficient. Ton is also very experimental and loves growing rarer herbs and greens; agretti and sea asparagus have been previously included in his rotation.

smiling farmer wearing a dark shirt standing in a greenhouse

What does aquaponic growing mean, exactly?

By now, you’re probably wondering what exactly aquaponic growing is and how Trend does it! Since I’m by no means an expect, and since we were a bit busy climbing past massive fish tanks during our visit to take extensive notes, I’m going to include a helpful excerpt from this handy website I found:

‘The standard aquaponics unit works by creating a nitrogen cycle. In this system, water is shared between a fish tank and grow beds. In the fish tank, fish produce waste that is high in ammonia content. Pumps carry this waste to the growing beds, where bacteria process it into an extremely rich fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen. The vegetables extract the nitrogen from the water, making the water safe for reintroduction to the fish tank. This cycle repeats over and over, with the fish providing the basic nutrition for bacteria, the bacteria providing nutrition for plants and plants acting as a bio-filter for the fish. All that’s left for you to do is feed the fish and decide which plants you should grow.’

I get the sense that this makes it sound more straightforward than it is at the scale Trend does it – Ton pointed out all the various monitoring computer systems that help him and his team track the chemical balance – but he assured us it’s still a lot of work to ensure the closed cycle can continue as optimally as possible.

different trays of red and green seedlings in a greenhouse

So – now’s your chance – have a peek at Trend’s extensive offering and try out some organic, aquaponically grown products! The sale runs from April 17th to 20th, for all deliveries!

By: Genrys Goodchild

Count the Differences with Woolley’s Lamb!

Welcome to the first Sow and Tell of 2018, featuring Woolley’s Lamb from Norfolk County!

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.

lamb, localfood, agriculture, ontario, woolleys

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.

localfood, sowandtell, 100kmfoods, sheep, lamb, ontario, norfolk county

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!

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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.

By: Genrys Goodchild

The Future Is Fresh – Lake Erie Farms Sow and Tell

The Future Is Fresh

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?

localfood, ontario, ontag, agriculture, lakeerie, 100kmfoods

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.

localfood, ontag, farm, fields, 100kmfoods, greenhouse

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

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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.

man, greenhouse, worker

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!

By: Genrys Goodchild

Instagram Contest: Celebrate Local Food Month

Celebrate Local Food Month!

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September is Local Food Month for 100km Foods! To celebrate the veritable bounty of local food offerings available for this month, we are launching our first ever Instagram contest!!

It’s pretty simple: post a picture on your Instagram of a dish crafted by your team that features local food ingredients from at least 4 different categories (please see the full breakdown below in the guidelines).

Follow us, tag us in the photo @100kmfoods and use the hashtag #100kmfoodscontest for your team’s chance to win a $200 voucher for a farm-to-table restaurant near you!

We encourage you to share your post far and wide, as the winner will be randomly selected from the top five entries with the most likes!

The contest runs from September 6th, 2017 until September 30th, 2017 – so you have almost the entire month to come up with your dish. We’re super excited to see how your team shows off the September bounty available from 100km Foods!!

Please review the full contest rules below:

  • To be eligible to participate in this contest, your team must hold an account with 100km Foods and be located in Ontario, Canada.
  • The entry dish has to feature ingredients from at least FOUR (4) of the following categories:

Vegetables

Fruits

Greens

Dairy/Eggs

Cheese

Dry Goods (includes honey, vinegars, oils, flours, etc)

Meat & Fish

  • To submit your team entry, be sure to follow 100km Foods on Instagram, tag us in the photo, and use the hashtag #100kmfoodscontest.
  • Only 1 entry per team.
  • The contest runs from September 6th 2017 through to September 30th
  • After the contest ends, the winner will be randomly selected from the 5 entries with the most likes.
  • The winning team will be contacted by email from info@100kmfoods.com
  • We will post the winning dish on all our social media channels!

Disclaimer: This contest is in no way affiliated with Instagram.

Beautiful Blues – Barrie Hill Farms Sow and Tell

Who loves blueberries?! We do!

A few weeks ago, our staff was overjoyed to learn that the Highbush Fresh Blueberries were ready from Barrie Hill Farms. First order of business: ensure we ordered in an extra 3L container in time for a staff meeting.

However, when it came time for the staff meeting, there was a slight kerfuffle when we briefly thought we had forgotten to order in that extra 3L. Things got straightened out very quickly, and Brynn, our receiving manager, rustled up the elusive blues, placing them triumphantly on the conference table.

We then, as a team, joyfully descended on the blueberries:

As you can see, 100km Foods really, really loves the Highbush Blueberries. And we also are very proud to work with Barrie Hill Farms!

Hence, it was a no-brainer for us to feature the highbush blueberries on sale for all deliveries next week – from August 22nd to August 25th 2017 – as part of this next instalment of the Sow & Tell series featuring Barrie Hill Farms!

Barrie Hill Farms

Barrie Hill Farms is operated by Morris Gervais – who – if you haven’t had a chance to meet him yet, is a very nice fellow and a huge advocate for strengthening local food and agriculture!

Barrie Hill Farms is located in Springwater, Ontario and was originally purchased by Morris’ parents – Adrien and Evelyn Gervais. They operated it as a tobacco farm from 1968 until 1979. Eventually, Adrien and Evelyn wanted to move away from the tobacco business which is why, in 1977, they began growing strawberries, followed by blueberries, raspberries and asparagus. These crops continue to make up their wholesale offerings today.

Nowadays, they have 40 acres of blueberry fields, making it one of the largest highbush blueberry farms in Ontario!

Stewards of the Land

Barrie Hill is one of the farms we work with who has gotten their Land Food People (or Local Food Plus) certification. Although the program has since been retired, the acronym “LFP” indicates that these products are still guaranteed certified.

Farms which met the certifications for LFP demonstrated that they engage in environmentally sustainable growing practices, work hard to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, engage in wildlife habitat preservation and lastly, aim to contribute towards a robust local food economy.

Barrie Hill also:

  • Does not use any genetically modified crops
  • Adheres to an integrated pest management control program, much like Sovereign or Davids. This means they plant cover crops and use crop rotation, only spraying their crops with low-risk pesticides when absolutely necessary
  • Maintains an Environmental Farm Plan
  • Prioritize water conservation through drip irrigation systems
  • Maintains stringent operating procedures to guarantee food safety standards with GAP Canada.

Community Activities

Barrie Hill is also big on family fun & community activities! As Morris says, they offer “country hospitality and fresh food.” Their farm is a well established pick your own facility (beginning in 1977), so it’s a great way to connect young kids to farm life. In fact, some families who visit their farm remember berry picking when they themselves were kids. Barrie Hill also hosts community festivals, including a strawberry harvest festival and an annual blueberry pancake festival with the proceeds going to charitable / non profit foundations and initiatives!

So, do you want to feature some of the best blueberries in Canada and wow your customers?

If that’s a ‘yes’ (and we’re certain it is!) now is your opportunity, since the Highbush Blueberries are on sale for all deliveries next week – August 22nd to the 25th! These blueberries are best stored in a shallow, well ventilated container. They have a shelf life of up to one week and should be washed just before serving.

Also – enjoy this video featuring Morris and Barrie Hill Farms, shot and produced by 100km Foods last year as part of a “Meet Our Producers” video series! In it, Morris talks a bit more about the challenges facing farmers in local food:

Many thanks to Morris & the team at Barrie Hill for the information & featured image photo!

By: Genrys Goodchild