Wednesday, 14 May 2008

A Visit to Meeting Place Organic Farm

On Saturday we drove out past Wingham, to Meeting Place Organic Farm. They were having one of their twice-annual open houses. One is always on the mother's day weekend, and one is in the fall. We always try to go to the mother's day weekend in particular. Not only is it a very nice outing for the day, it is time to get our meat order in for the fall.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Sign
They are located on a minor side road (Creek Line), but their signage is good. You can see some of the electrified fences they use in their rotational grazing.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Reception
Next to an old barn which has been renovated into housing for apprentices and which is also sometimes used for Quaker meetings for worship, there was a stand with information about the farm, manned by one of the current farm apprentices.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Info
And an information display board.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Sheep
We walked back and looked at the sheep.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Cattle
And some of the cattle. Both were in fairly small fields closed off with electrified fencing. The McQuails practice rotational grazing, meaning that their grazing animals are kept in small areas for sufficient time for them to crop it down thoroughly. Then they are moved to the next small area. This prevents them from over-grazing certain plants (their favourites) and ignoring others, thus leading to a proliferation of the least-desirable plants. It also helps prevent erosion and ensures that grazing is done when each field is at the most desirable level of growth.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Orchard with Beehives
They have a small orchard, in which one of their neighbours keeps bees. In turn, they sell some of the honey produced by the neighbour.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Barn
We checked out the main barn. Not too much action there today - most critters were outside.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Chickens
This year the McQuails are not raising chickens for meat, just their usual egg-layers. Normally they have been out running around but this time they were in the pen. I suspect there have been problems with them getting underfoot during the open houses.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Pig
This is a picture from last years' open house. They didn't have any pigs during this open house, as they will be raising only one batch this year and the piglets won't arrive until they are pretty sure they have all their orders in.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Greenhouse
There is a very nice greenhouse attached to the farmhouse, where Fran McQuail was selling vegetable starts, herbs and bedding plants.

Meeting Place Organic Farm - Yoder's Maple Syrup
They had maple syrup produced by one of their neighbours.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Honey and Apple Butter
And the honey mentioned above, as well as apple butter and apple cider vinegar from their own apples.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Plants for Sale
Hmm, choices, choices... The plants were all very well labeled with a brief description. Many of the vegetable starts were of heirloom varieties.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Fran McQuail
Fran writes up an order.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Horses
Now for an open-house tradition - a hay-ride tour of the farm with Tony McQuail. And of course, Nate and Charlene.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Hayride
Tony points something out to one of the passengers as he drives up the lane towards the house. One of the things I enjoy about the hay-ride is that there always seems to be at least one farmer making the trip, and asking all kinds of farmy questions. I learn something new every trip!

Meeting Place Organic Farm House
The farmhouse seen from the fields.

Meeting Place Organic Farm CSA Garden
The community shared agriculture (vegetable) gardens.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Pond
One of two ponds on the farm, which supply water to the gardens and livestock.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Woodlot
The tour goes out to the farm woodlot before heading back in. The woodlot is an important part of the farm, and also supplies some income from sustainable harvesting of hardwood during the winter. (It's sustainable harvesting now; but the woodlot had basically been raped for every loggable tree before the McQuails bought the farm, and it took over 20 years to recover enough for gentle logging to resume.)

The horses, by the way, are not just there to pull the hay-ride around. They are an integral part of the farm. In the winter they are used to pull out the trees that have been cut down. The McQuails use the horses to pull their plows and other farm equipment. Unlike a tractor, they don't cost a bomb to run. And unlike tractors, they are reasonably self-repairing and self-replacing. They consume no oil; only fuel produced right on the farm. An idea who's time has come!?


Cynthia said...

This was such a lovely post. Made me want to visit.

ninabd said...

I'm so happy to have found you. I'm starting a local food business (Bailey's Local Foods) in Waterloo, ON. I was considering starting a blog to inspire folks in their local eating journeys. And here you are doing it already. Can you tell me how near you live to Waterloo So that I can let my customers know of your blog (if you are close)? My name is Nina and you can phone me at 519-578-2416

Ferdzy said...

Hi Nina;

Thanks for posting. I'll give you a call. (You may wish to remove your phone number from your post.)

Ruth Daniels said...

What a fantastic place. Thanks so much for sharing with the rest of us.

tree hugger said...

thanks for the post! i actually went to university with tony and fran's daughter, but i haven't yet been able to make it out to an open house yet. i will try for next year! (or the fall)