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Reclaiming the Land of the Kawarthas by a New Generation of Canadians
By Habeeb Salloum and Muna Salloum

High on Adventure, September 2015


Located only 125 kms (78 mi) from Toronto, the region of Peterborough and the Kawarthas is a tourist destination par excellence.  Peterborough, a city of some 120,000, is known as the gateway to and is in the heart of the Kawarthas region, a wide-spread cottage countryside and large recreational area in Ontario that draws tourists year-round. From fishing, canoeing, biking and hiking, to skiing, hunting, and other summer and winter sports, this part of the province offers tourists things to do galore.

It contains within its boundaries numerous attractions such as Indigenous Peoples’ historical landmarks and cultural heritage sites and activities, theaters, shopping, museums, fine-dining, farmers’ markets selling organic products - whether straight from the land or baked from the oven - and an array of things to see and do.

  Ontario berry farm  
McLean Berry Farm

What defines the physical and cultural landscape of this part of south-central Ontario are the Kawartha Lakes and other waterways that crisscross the region. So beautiful is the area that the Ojibwa gave it the name kawartha meaning ‘land of shining waters’.  

There has been a large influx of the sons and daughters of Peterborough’s original inhabitants who have returned to the city and to the Kawarthas to make the area bloom.  Their love of the land and what it can produce has drawn them back to the farm.

  Circle Farm's owner Andrew  

The first stop on our two-day tour of familiarizing ourselves with the work of these returning descendants was Circle Organic farm.

Andrew and his wife Julie returned to their native Peterborough with the intention of establishing a sustainable farm.  After having taken advice from master growers in the area, they made the decision to grow as high a quality and yield of foodstuffs as possible. Andrew explained that the high expense of using natural earth nutrients was worthwhile in order to produce the best variety of vegetables now in demand by local chefs and, by extension, homemakers as well. In Andrew’s words, “In order to bring ‘food justice,’ there is a need for natural, clean garden growth.” 

What makes the farm special is its constantly functioning four-season greenhouse that acts as an incubator for the farm. His aim is to evolve his seeds to adapt to Kawartha’s climate - especially for winter growth. This means a continual cycle of food and an extension of the growing season. Andrew is so in love with the land that he remarked that one must “treat soil like it’s a living being because we are what we eat.” As we left the farm, he offered us a taste of his Boston lettuce. It was truly authentic – an organic vegetable supreme.

Circle Farm's owner Andrew

Traynor Farms was our next destination.  The owner, Greg, gave us a tour of his operation which is known for its beef production.  It was a bit sad to learn that, after only three years of life, the beautiful organic-fed calves will then be sent off to slaughter.  Such is the cycle of life, I thought, as Greg pointed out to us the next animal to be sent to be butchered.  After a short tour of the premises - a beautiful well-kept farm - we then were invited for lunch in the barn.  The meal was what I would call ‘rustic farmer’s fare’ and it was good. However, watching the calves as they stared at us took some of the enjoyment away from the beef on our plates.

Traynor Farms calf
Traynor Farms calf

We traveled from cattle to goats as we next arrived at Cross Wind Farm, a storybook-like scene of tranquil rural life except for the bleating of its 500 young goats. This family-run organic farm owned by Cindy and Kevin, produces full-fat goat milk, yogurt, and artisan cheeses, all produced on the farm.  The goat milk is so fresh that after the 4:30 a.m. milking, it is pasteurized in the farm’s production room, then bottled and ready for sale by 3 p.m. the same afternoon.  The farm’s creamy and fluffy textured cheese is available in 12 flavours, from savoury to slightly sweet.  They have a creamy Feta available in aged cheddar-style and a bloomy rind crottini-style cheese.  Goat yogurt, made of 100% goat milk, is one of their best-sellers.

Goat meat is also for sale in a variety of cuts.  A unique tender sausage made with 100% goat meat is one of their specialties.  Their new product, a luxurious Goat Milk Body Butter, promises to make the skin feel silky and smooth.  Gratified that these animals could provide so much for the well-being of the human body, we moved on to our lodgings.

  Cross Wind Farm goats   Cross Wind Farm goat mild soap  
Cross Wind Farm goats
Cross Wind Farm goat mild soap

Next morning after breakfast, we entered the Kawartha County Winery and behold, before us, were dozens of shelved types of wines from red to white, dry and sweet, premium fruit wines as well as cider and even their new wild rice wine.  Cooking wines such as pumpkin and others flavoured with garlic and onion and much more were also available.  Imagine, right after breakfast, a wine-tasting jamboree! 

As we were about to purchase some of this winery’s alcoholic drinks, we walked past shelves of the winery’s own wine jellies, fruit vinegars and preserves. In the heart of Ontario’s cottage country it was nice to find a general store containing the best of Ontario’s home-produced wine products all available at once from the Winery’s 22 acres of farmland that produces apples, pears, raspberries, rhubarb, grapes, and maple trees. 





Kawartha County Winery

  Kawartha County Winery  
Kawartha County Winery wine tasting
Kawartha County Winery sales room

A bit tipsy, we boarded our van until the next stop, McLean Berry Farm. Erin greeted us at the entrance to her farm, welcoming us with enthusiasm and warmth.  Her parents had started the farm in 1991 after having lived as hippies, building sailboats, picking oysters and traveling around the world.  When they returned to Peterborough, Erin’s father, then in his 40s, began to cultivate the 99 acres of his newly purchased farmland. Specializing in raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, the family is now hoping to expand into “new berries.”  The farm’s future will also include vegetables as their new greenhouse is the beginning of this forthcoming enterprise.  In addition, the family has opened a nearby location called Buckhorn Berry Farm.

McLean Berry Farm lunch
McLean Berry Farm lunch

Lakefield Hard Winter Bread Company owners Graham and Jessica

After lunching at the farm, we made our way through the lush countryside to the Lakefield Hard Winter Bread Company where the two enthusiastic young owners greeted us warmly.  They represent the new population of Peterborough and the Kawarthas – young, hard-working, ambitious, and friendly. Their aim is to revitalize the region with fresh ideas and regenerate farming in this area.

Jessica and Graham are very proud of their bakery but most of all, of their outdoor brick oven lovingly hand-constructed from scratch. After living in Smithers, BC, the couple moved back to Graham’s family farm to reclaim the heritage of home-baking practiced by his forefathers.

Lakefield Hard Winter Bread Company
owners Graham and Jessica

  Lakefield Hard Winter Bread Company oven  

It was the wood burner brick oven that caught our eye. As Graham explained, it took six months to build and was a labour of love.  The oven is fed with wood and burns to just over 1000°F. As the fire burns out, the various types of bread are baked according to their necessary baking temperatures.  The couple have limited time to provide a limited product and, in Graham’s words, “we work to the rhythms of the oven’s limits.” The couple produces seven types of breads each week. The different varieties depend on the season.  All the ingredients used are from local organic farms and every loaf they sell is fresh.  These two young people make their native country of Canada proud for their passion to bring their country back home to the table. With generosity and kindness, they loaded us up with samples of their homemade products. Move over, Santa: Graham and Jessica have taken over as the ultimate gift-givers.   

  Lakefield Hard Winter Bread Company brick oven      

As we sat in our van feeling blessed by what we had witnessed in the revitalization of the region by young people, we drove through a tree-filled green countryside dotted with farms until we reached Peterborough.  It was a beautiful landscape filled with people who are working hard to enhance the natural wonders of Peterborough and the Kawarthas.  

If You Go

Peterborough and the Kawarthas Tourism: 1400 Crawford Drive, Peterborough, Ontario K9J 6X6; Tel: 1-800-461-6424; E-mail: info@thekawarthas.ca; Website: http://thekawarthas.ca/  

Circle Organic:  338 Country Road 10, Millbrook, Ontario L0A 1G0; Tel: 705-932-9888; E-mail: farm@circleorganic.ca; Website: http://www.circleorganic.ca/  

Traynor Farms:  2193 County Road, #2, Otonabee, Ontario K9J 6X7; Tel:  705-931-0696; E-mail: info@traynorfarms.ca; Website: http://www.traynorbeeffarms.ca/  

Cross Wind Farm:  1616 Villiers Line, Keene, Ontario K0L 2G0; Tel: 705-295-6049; Fax: 705-295-5105; E-mail: info@crosswindfarm.ca; Website: http://www.crosswindfarm.ca/  

Kawartha Country Wines:  2452 County Road 36, Buckhorn, Ontario K0L 1J0; Tel: 705-657-9916; E-mail: kawarthawinery@sympatico.ca; Website: http://kawarthacountrywines.ca/  

McLean Berry Farm:  2191 16th Line of Smith, Lakefield, Ontario K0L 2H0; Tel: 705-657-2134; E-mail: smclean@mcleanberryfarm.com;   Website: http://www.mcleanberryfarm.com/  

Hard Winter Bread Company: P.O. Box 77, Lakefield, Ontario K0L 2H0; Tel: 705-931-4922; E-mail: hardwinter@gmail.com; Website:  http://www.hardwinterbreadco.com/  

About the author:

Canadin author Habeeb Salloum grew up in Saskatchewan, joined the RCAF during the Second World War, and then worked for the Canadian Department of National Revenue for 36 years. For the last 30 years he has been a full-time freelance writer and author specializing in food, history and travel. Besides 7 books and 20 chapters in books, he has written hundreds of articles about culture, food, travel, history and homesteading in western Canada for numerous Canadian and international publications such as the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. Habeeb was awarded the 2013 Saskatchewan Tourism Travel Media Award by Saskatchewan Tourism (Provincial Government of Saskatchewan) for his literary work on travel, tourism and the culinary arts of that province. habeeb.salloum@sympatico.ca


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