Image credit Natta Summerky

April Highlights at the Farmers Market

April is Earth Month! Spring is here and Ontario's growing season is about to begin.

It’s Earth Month! How do you plan on celebrating this amazing planet and its biodiversity? It’s not only how we choose to travel or heat our homes that determines our carbon footprint, what we eat also has a bigger impact than you may think.

Understanding the resources that go into producing our meals can make us more aware of the relationship between food and climate change and help us make better choices.

Here are some way you can consume food sustainably:

  • Eat grass-fed meat and reduce your weekly consumption.
  • Choose chemical-free agriculture, grown ecologically or organically.
  • Eat food that is grown or raised close to home. Currently, the average meal travels 1200 km from the farm to plate!
  • Don't waste food by buying a smaller amount of groceries more frequently. This will help you stop throwing out things that have gone bad before you've eaten them.
  • Cook at home and learn to use every part of the ingredients you buy.
  • Grow some of your own food.
  • Buy organic and local whenever possible.
  • Commit to shop your local farmers market every week. It is good for you, good for the environment, fun and delicious!

Know your food producer and ask the questions you need to know. When you shop at a farmers market your grocery bill contributes to an equitable food system that enables farmers to continue their work as land stewards. In doing so, you are helping to protect the Earth for future generations.

Weekly Themes

April 1 | Spring Lamb

Spring has sprung and so have lambs! Lambs are born during the winter, so by the time spring rolls around they are ready for the market. Spring lambs are especially tender and sweet as they have fed on only milk and fresh shoots of grass. 

At our weekly farmers market we have two sheep farmers. You can talk to Sofie from  Secret Lands Farm, a farmstead operation who sells sheep dairy products and meat from East Friesian sheep, or Andreas and Nicolle from Bushbeck Farms.

Andreas and his family at Bushbeck Farms have been practicing ethical and sustainable animal husbandry for over 25 years. Not only did Andreas and his family champion antibiotic-free production in North America, they also raise Romney Sheep, a breed considered the Wagyu beef of sheep. Stop by, say hello, and pick up some fresh and delicious spring lamb.

Interview with Andreas

What do you love about this time of the year at your farm?

What we love is spring air. The anticipation of heading out on the land and the smell of broken ground ready for planting. Longer days. New lambs.

What is the most challenging aspect of this season?

The biggest challenge is not having enough time! We are still feeding the animals as there is no pasture in the fields. In addition, we have to do the shearing, fix fencing that didn't survive the winter, and get ready for Market Day! We love it but is a lot of work in an already busy time. Everything needs attention this time of year… the list is endless.

April 8 | Wild things are growing!

As the earth awakens, wild edibles are starting to pop up at farmers markets. Make sure you taste and decide which your favourite is, but make it quick! They only last a few weeks.

Ontario wild edibles in April: Wild leeks (also known as ramps), dandelion, and wild garlic. Find these delicious wild treats at Forbes Wild Foods. If you’re lucky, sometimes Marvellous Edibles and Grassroot Organics bring extra wild goodies too!

Want to learn more about foraging? Check out the Wild Foragers Society and make sure to join one of their hands-on explorations of wild plants in the urban jungle.

Recipe for Dandelion Cheddar Biscuits

Season: Spring
Difficulty: Medium
Tip: Use a whole wheat or whole spelt flour for more vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. (1-3/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed for shaping the dough
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 2-1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 oz. (8 Tbs.) very cold unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup very cold buttermilk
  • 2 cups grated sharp Cheddar, Gruyère, Gouda, or provolone
  • 1 bunch dandelion greens, sautéed in butter

Cooking Method

Mix and fold the dough:

Heat the oven to 500°F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl and stir with a whisk to distribute the ingredients evenly.

With a sharp knife or a bench knife, cut the cold butter crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack 3 or 4 slices and cut them into three even strips. Rotate the stack a quarter turn and cut the strips in half. You should create 6 small bits of butter per slice. Toss the butter bits into the bowl with the flour mixture. Continue cutting all the butter in the same manner and adding it to the flour mixture.

When all the butter is in the bowl with the flour, use your fingers to separate the butter bits (they tend to stick to each other), coat all the butter pieces with flour, and evenly distribute them throughout the flour mixture. Don’t rub the butter too hard with your fingertips or palms, as this will melt the butter. You’re just trying to break the butter pieces apart, not blend the butter into the flour.

When all the butter is evenly distributed, add the cold buttermilk and stir with a large spoon until all or most of the flour is absorbed by the buttermilk and the dough forms a coarse lump, about 1 minute.

Pat and fold the dough:

Dust a work surface with flour and dump the dough onto the floured surface, cleaning out the bowl with a spatula or a plastic bowl scraper. Dust the top of the dough and your hands with flour, and press the dough into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Sprinkle a small amount of additional flour and one-third of the cheese on the top of the dough. Fold the dough over on itself in three sections, as if folding a letter (also called a tri-fold).

With a bench knife or metal spatula, lift the dough off the counter and dust under it with flour to prevent sticking, if necessary. Dust the top with flour and press the dough out again into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Sprinkle on another third of the cheese and repeat the tri-fold. Repeat this procedure one more time (three times in all), using the remaining cheese.

Cut and bake the biscuits:

After the third tri-fold, dust under and on top of the dough, if needed, and roll or press the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick oval. Dip a 2-inch or 2-3/4-inch round biscuit cutter in flour and start cutting biscuits, dipping the cutter in flour between each biscuit. Press straight down to cut and lift straight up to remove; twisting the biscuit cutter will seal the sides and interfere with rising. Use a bench knife or spatula to transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet, placing them about 1/2 inch apart.

Gently gather any scraps of dough, pat and roll out again, and cut more biscuits from the remaining dough. You can gather and roll the scraps two times total and still get good results (the more times you roll out, the tougher the biscuits will be).

Put the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the temperature to 450°F. Bake for 8 minutes; rotate the pan 180 degrees; continue baking until both the tops and bottoms of the biscuits are a rich golden brown and the biscuits have doubled in height, revealing flaky layers on the sides, 4 to 6 minutes more. It’s all right if some butter seeps from the biscuits. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a cooling rack, leaving the biscuits on the pan. Cool the biscuits for at least 3 minutes and serve them hot or warm (they will stay warm for about 20 minutes).

April 15 | Easter Weekend

Get EGG-cited for all our Easter activities this holiday weekend!

If you’re looking for something sweet, stop by Chocosol Trader and hop on home with some delicious chocolate Easter bunnies! They're made with Vanilla Sea Salt and are free of nuts, dairy, soy and gluten!

Join us for the following events during the Easter weekend.

Cook and learn with Signe Langford

When: April 15, 2017
Where: FIDO Classroom in the Young Welcome Centre at Evergreen Brick Works
Time: 10:30-11:30am

Join Signe Langford for Happy Chickens, Happy Eggs, a cooking demonstration showcasing the difference that healthy, happy & heirloom chicken can make.


Image courtesy of The Ottawa Citizen

Facillitator Bio

Raised in the town of Hudson, Quebec, Signe Langford grew up surrounded by an ever-changing menagerie of critters, wild and domestic, and her special affection for all things feathered—present from day one—has never flagged. For Langford, keeping a tiny flock of laying hens is about so much more than real eggs; for her it’s about offering hens a quality of life that, sadly, the vast majority of egg-laying hens will never enjoy. “For every hen in someone’s backyard—even if the set up isn’t palatial or absolutely ideal—it is one less hen in a factory cage.”

The former restaurant chef-turned-writer tells stories and creates recipes for such publications as: The Globe and Mail, LCBO’s Food & Drink, The National Post, Garden Making, and many others. Langford received a Gold National Magazine Award for her writing. Her work as a chef has garnered excellent reviews, including four star ratings. She studied Fine Art History and Humanities at the University of Toronto, and York University, graduating with honours from OCAD University. Langford earned her Wine Specialist Certificate from George Brown College. No doubt she can advise which varietal will go best with an egg dish.

She shares her downtown Toronto Victorian cottage with her own menagerie – wild and domestic – though she could do without the raccoons.

Advocate for change!

When: April 15, 2017
Where: FIDO Classroom in the Young Welcome Centre at Evergreen Brick Works
Time: 11:45am-12:25pm

Come and learn from Lorraine Johnson, author of City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food Growing, and her fight to get the green light on urban poultry-keeping in Toronto.

Image courtesy of Alex Chisholm for Globe and Mail

Facilitator Bio

After three decades of gardening—and almost as long writing about it—Lorraine Johnson still gets excited (and unrealistic!) every spring about the amount of space she has in her small city frontyard and backyard. So she regularly scrounges space from others: in community gardens, at family members’ houses, even city parks… Her interests are mainly in the ways that growing plants (for food, for environmental benefits) nurtures the good in ourselves and the world. She views gardening as a deep and meaningful conversation with the planet. Johnson was the president of the North American Native Plant Society and is the author of numerous books on gardening and environmental issues, including The New Ontario Naturalized Garden, The Gardener’s Manifesto, and City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food Growing. Lorraine is much-in-demand throughout North America as a garden speaker on native plants. She currently lives in Toronto.

Chickens in the Children's Garden

When: April 15, 2017
Where: Children's Garden at Evergreen Brick Works
Time: 10am-3pm

Meet Kate Belbeck of Rent The Chicken. Aside from running Belbeck’s Family Farm, Kate also provides urban chicken rentals! This is a perfect opportunity for anyone who has considered backyard poultry-keeping to find out more about a flexible alternative to chicken ownership. You don’t want to miss the chance to meet these inquisitive, intelligent, feathery friends up close!

April 22 | Earth Day Celebration at the Farmers Market

Did you know that Earth Day is celebrated in 141 countries? This year, we are lucky enough that Earth Day also falls on Market Day!

In many countries around the world, farmers are compensated for their role as stewards of the land and their provision of ecological services. In Canada, the ALUS program has a similar idea.

To see how a cattle rancher strives for sustainability, check out one of our local heroes: YU ranch from London, Ontario.

At the market swing by Earth Haven Farms and Tibos Teas to learn about the unique partnership between Aric from Earth Haven and Irene from Tibo that exemplifies land stewardship.

Earth Haven Farms is a demeter-certified biodynamic grower. This means that the farm operates not as a monoculture, but requires biodiversity and ecosystem preservation, soil husbandry, livestock integration, prohibition of genetically engineered organisms. Basically the farm is viewed as a living “holistic organism.”

This philosophy has created a truly sustainable farm and opened community partnerships. For example, Aric’s participation in the Woodlot Stewardship program has enabled a proliferation of native species which Irene forages for her teas.

“As a tea wright, I am inspired by the incredible diversity of edible plants found in Ontario's bio-regions. I believe through crafting teas I honour the knowledge & wisdom of our ancestors. I offer a selection of bio-regional artisanal teas, handcrafted primarily from edible, indigenous plants I forage myself from the urban wilderness, the Canadian Shield and the boreal forests of Temagami.”
Irene of Tibos Teas

April 29 | Spring greens and wild leeks

Wild leeks (also known as ramps) are among the first plants to come up in spring and grow in the deep woods. They grow from onion-like bulbs and smell like onions as well.

Tip: Wild leeks freeze really well.  Purchase some extra and enjoy them in the winter! They are a great addition to scrambled eggs, soups, salads, pasta and pesto!

If you’re up to the challenge, try foraging them yourself with this instructable! Don’t forget to be a land steward and follow recommended foraging levels. Wild Leeks are classified as Yellow, which means they are endangered. Only pick 15% from each plant.

Not down to forage? Find these delicious wild treats at Forbes Wild Foods. If you’re lucky, sometimes Marvellous Edibles and Grassroot Organics bring extra wild goodies too!