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Why One Farmer Wants Canadians to Celebrate Winter

Top image caption: Image credit Michelle Scrivener

Published on January 12, 2017

Peter Finch's farm, Rolling Hills Organics, has been a vendor of 100% certified organic produce at Evergreen Brick Works and Cabbagetown farmers markets for many years. 

In celebrating the seasons, we celebrate the cycle of life. Now the winter solstice is behind us, the days are already getting longer again, although winter is just beginning.

In the winter season I become nature’s bear, entering a period of quiet hibernation for resting up and recharging batteries. It is a time to reflect on the past growing season (this one having been a challenging one for our farm with the drought) and to peruse seed catalogues and make plans for the spring that lies ahead.

Some farmers remain active with livestock to tend and feed and breed; others have heated greenhouses to maintain and enjoy observing plants growing all winter long.

At year-round farmers markets like the one at Evergreen Brick Works, farmers continue to serve the public with greenhouse produce, local cheeses, eggs, other dairy, meats, stored vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, and seeds both from the farm and from the wild.

In this way, they are extending the harvest of the summer season behind them. Processors preserve this harvest, offering teas, herbs, spices, pickles, jams, jellies, fermented foods, honeys and of course, maple syrup. ​

During the summer season our farm preserves the harvest by making freezer jams from the rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, plums, and peaches purchased at market. Basil pesto is frozen in ice cubes for a pasta hit in the middle of winter. We also make tomato and apple sauces, and together with friends we press apple cider from our heritage apples and their own.

Food purveyors at market prepare and serve up dishes largely made from ingredients provided by local farms in this community. By supporting such markets through the winter season, you are supporting the efforts and livelihoods of local farmers and food artisans, as well as your own vitality and health. Adapting diet to the availability of the season and lifestyle to changing weather is a good strategy.

Living in southern Ontario as we do, traditional winters are naturally long and cold, especially for those who hail from warmer climes. They take a bit of getting used to.

Despite having lived here for some thirty five years, I still have to remind myself of this as my ears fast-freeze when going out hatless in the brilliant sunshine of minus 30 temperatures!

Adapt to the prevailing conditions of winter we must. A bracing walk in the bright sunshine, whether along city streets or out in the wild woods, is manna for the soul. 

We can equally embrace the great white outdoors here by hiking, cycling, chopping wood, skating at the rink, shussing down the slopes, cross-country skiing along tranquil trails, and snow-shoeing across pristine landscapes.

Nature is glorious in all its urban and rural diversity and enhanced by the variety bestowed on her by the ever-changing seasons.

As I reflected in my book High Up in the Rolling Hills:

Over time, spirited seasons guide us onwards,

as the hazy summer days linger ahead of sticky, humid nights;

as the autumnal winds play with leaves all transformation;

as the winter snows will tumble and coat the realm white;

as the bitter storms will rage, then blow out in a whisper;

as the fresh buds of spring will burst forth with fluorescence;

and, for ever more, as night turfs out the light,

till morning rises on the other side of darkness.    

Perhaps no season is so starkly wondrous as our Canadian winter, so we may as well wrap up warm and celebrate it!

Celebrating Winter with Evergreen:

Peter Finch is a passionate advocate of organic farming and the thriving farmers market food scene in and around Toronto. For many years his farm, Rolling Hills Organics, has been a vendor of 100% certified organic produce at Evergreen Brick Works and Cabbagetown farmers markets in Toronto. Peter is the author of a book “High Up in the Rolling Hills” which details his travels and experience living and farming in the picturesque Northumberland Hills.