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CHEF'S TABLE: Trip to vegetable patch sprouts curiosity

The folks behind Valley Farm Market, located in the Elmvale area, continue to grow their business with focus on community and not losing the country family feel, writes food columnist

“For all things produced in a garden, whether of salads or fruits, a poor man will eat better that has one of his own, than a rich man that has none.” — J. C. Loudoun

Can you feel it? Summer is slipping into fall. The trees look a little less green, the flower gardens look a little different and you can almost feel the anticipation of the changes coming.

Late August, early September is always a busy time of the year. Our family is changing gears from a summer of camping, road trips and summer fun to shift back into the routines of school, work and a busy family schedule.

It never fails to catch me off guard just how fast the summer flies by. It’s hard to believe that I’ve watched our garden project at Georgian College grow and is now at the peak of producing.

Tomatoes, squash, cabbage, and zucchini are all filling our fridges and ready to be turned into culinary delights or will find their way to hungry students in need.

Watching the fruits of our labour mature and come to a useful end is a really satisfying experience, and one that I was lucky enough to share in with my colleagues and students this summer.

I think one of my favourite tasks over this semester was the 'Field to Fork' discovery tour with our second-semester culinary students. It was an excellent opportunity for us to connect with some of the amazing work being done putting food on our tables. This past month, we made our final farm tour stop to meet a local vegetable producer and see just what goes into growing top-quality vegetables here in Simcoe County.

Each year, more than 125 different fruit and vegetable crops are grown by Ontario farmers on a total of more than 245,000 acres of land. Ontario’s produce farmers generate an estimated farm-gate value of more than $2.3 billion annually.

Some of the crops grown here include potatoes, sweet corn, peas, field tomatoes, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, peppers, pumpkins, squash, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, and zucchini.

In Ontario, fruit and vegetable production is responsible for more than $4.2 billion in economic activity annually. This equates to over one third of Canada’s total production right here in our province.

Even with the huge amount grown domestically there are still over $5 billion worth of fruit and vegetable imports into Ontario every year.

Trying to keep our dinner table full is hard work. We were fortunate to be able to get a look behind the scenes and spend some time with Henri Linde and the team at Valley Farm Market near Elmvale.

Family-owned and -operated, it is very easy to see that they love what they do. The 17.5 acres of land were purchased in 2006 and thus began Henri and Michelle adventure of growing farm fresh produce.

Henri, already having been a farmer with 10 years under his belt, was excited by the new venture. While Michelle being the more pragmatic was guardedly optimistic and maybe just a little intimidated.

Flash forward to today and both along with their three girls have one of the best operations in the area. With an amazing staff and the support of the local community they have grown the small family business into a full-service county market. Featuring homemade treats and local products, it has become a regular stop for many in search of quality wholesome local foods.

In addition to the farm market and bakery, Henri and team sell at the Elmvale Farmers' Market and offer award-winning off-site catering services.

The Lindes' plan on continuing to grow their business with a focus on community and not losing the country family feel. Already the seeds of the future have been planted. They hope to one day pass the farm down to their daughters who have show a keen interest and are an integral part of this successful family business.

More information on what’s in season and available at the farm check the website at www.valleyfarmmarket.ca.

For me, gardening and growing food really trains you to think ahead and to care for other living organisms responsibly. It’s a natural lesson in perseverance, hope and connection to our environment. There are so many valuable life lessons that the garden has to offer.

I know I look forward to learning more as our own garden grows and we get to experience it from the field to the fork.