10th annual Media Farm Tour included Dufferin

June 18, 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Tabitha Wells – Living on this side of the ‘big city’, it is sometimes unfathomable that people not know where their food comes from, the way farms operate, or that they play such an integral part in our food production.

But for people who live in the city, access to that information and to actually being able to see it firsthand doesn’t come quite as easily.

That’s why Farm and Food Care Ontario developed the Media Farm Tours, which provided the opportunity for members of the food media industry, chefs, recipe creators and magazine writers to tour Ontario farms and see where the food that they use and write about came from.

“Our theory has always been that if you have questions about farming in Ontario, why wouldn’t you ask a farmer?” said Kelly Daynard, Communications Manager at Farm and Food Care Ontario.

“But sometimes it can be difficult to find a farmer, and with 98 percent of our population living in cities and urban centres, they often don’t know where to go to get their questions answered. We always look for ways to get those questions answered for them and dispelling myths about where that food comes from.”

The tours occur once in the spring around the GTA and once in the fall in Ottawa, and include a full tour of two farms, plus a lunch made with 100 percent Ontario grown foods. Members of the tour have the opportunity to ask the farmers questions directly, as well as learn about how things work on the farm.

“Days in the country are always a great thing in our opinion,” said Ms. Daynard. “This is our 10th annual Spring Media Farm Tour. Every year we rotate between the different types of commodities that are grown in Ontario. Last year we toured an English Cucumber Greenhouse and a large goat dairy milk farm.”

This year, the tour came up to Dufferin County, where they toured the Burnett’s grain farm, lunch at the Mono Community Centre prepared by Black Birch Restaurant, and a tour of the Schaus Beef Farm in Alliston.

“The key invite list is Toronto Food Writers and bloggers,” explained Ms. Daynard. “It’s an eclectic group of people but the primary focus is that they all work in food. So we have a lot of chefs, a lot of professional home economists, recipe developers and testers, cookbook authors and writers for magazines like the LCBO Food and Drink Magazine, Canadian Living and the Toronto Star.”

The first stop at of the tour, which was held on June 5, was at the Burnett farm near Belwood, a farm started by the family in 1888 and which currently has four generations of the family on the farm. They are part of a cash crop and custom farm business, as well as managing a small retail outlet selling crop supplies. On the farm, they grow corn, soybeans (both GMO and Identity Preserved), seed soybeans, canola, wheat and seed barley.

“We’re really proud to be a part of the farm tour this year,” said Darryl Burnett. “If we don’t reach out a little bit to talk to people that don’t get the chance to be out on a farm, then we can’t really complain when they don’t know anything about farming in Ontario.”

The Burnetts took time to answer questions about their farming business from members of the media on the tour, including some of the harder questions surrounding GMO products. Darryl’s wife Anita addressed some of the concerns as well as some of the myths surrounding GMO foods in Canada.

“There is nothing to hide in agriculture,” she said. “We want to be very open with what we are doing because it is important, with what we’re doing by growing food. We want people to be comfortable with Canadian food.”

Ms. Daynard added that while being out in the country and getting to introduce the people from the city to life away from there is part of the joy, the other part comes from the time they get to spend with the farmers, asking the things that are on their minds regarding the food they use.

“It’s a great opportunity to introduce these foodies to the people who prepare the foods that they’re so passionate about,” she said, “We’re building that connection between farmers and consumers and I think that is very important.”

With the changing culture surrounding food, people are more concerned about where their food is coming from and what the process is that goes into creating that food.

There has been a large shift towards promotion and consumption of local food markets and farmers markets, which has sparked an even greater interest in the farm tours.

“At the end of the day you’re absolutely exhausted but you’ve had a great day and the attendees have met some really passionate farmers who love to share their passion in what they do,” said Ms. Daynard.

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