Friday, October 26, 2007

Touring Toronto's North West Foodshed

From my location near Yorkdale in Toronto, the fastest way out of the city to find farmland is north and west. Heading north, I pass a couple of my favourite urban/suburban supermarkets, Highland Farms and the Concord Food Market, both of which provide a wide selection of high quality local fruits and vegetables. A lot of human labour goes into the hand selection of produce on display at these stores which keeps the prices above average. I always check the 'damaged & expired' displays for reduced prices since the rejected produce is better than the full-price produce at most conventional supermarkets.

Continuing north I often stop at Front Step Farms on the west side of Dufferin St. at the south side of the King-Vaughan Sideroad. Earlier in the season I'd buy bags of fresh and tasty tomatoes, but now, moving seriously into fall, it's their display of pumpkins and gourds that attract customers driving by. The last couple of years they've supported the Aurora Food Pantry by donating pumpkins to be exchanged for canned goods.

A little further north and west are the apple orchards of Pine Farms (905-833-5459) on the north side of the 16th Sideroad just east of Jane St. This is great place for pick-your-own fans, but you can also buy apples pre-picked. This year I've been snacking on Honeycrisp apples. The ones I've bought at Pine Farms are not coated with wax, unlike the imported BC ones that I keep finding at the big supermarket chains. They also have a small popular café onsite that serves delicious homemade snacks if apples haven't already filled you up.

This whole area is on the Oak Ridges Moraine, and if you can find the public trail, there are some nice places for a stroll in the forest. The only downside is the constant sound of construction just beyond the fringe of trees bordering the trail, but the gorgeous smell of the fall forest almost compensates for the visual and aural pollution of the encroaching mansions and estates that populate this area.

Heading 40 minutes west to the Georgetown area I make sure to stop at Agram Meats, just south of town on the west side of Trafalgar Rd, just south of 15th Sideroad. Make sure you have a cooler ready to load up with free-range chickens, eggs, bacon, freshly ground pork, etc. Friendly and informative staff really make a difference to a food shopping experience!

A couple of minutes north on Trafalgar Rd. and then west on 15th Sideroad to number 12399 brings you to 'The Farm', a neat little vegetable farm tucked into the hills and folds of a river valley. A couple of weeks ago I dropped in just before they closed for the season and emptied my pockets of cash in order to buy the last of the field tomatoes and bunches of garlic. The drive in from the highway is amazing, a quarter mile, one-way gravel path along the river, underneath a towering train trestle, and then up through forest to the fields of vegetables. I'll be back next season if only for the fun drive. It's best to make sure your visit is in the morning because they often close afternoons.

A minute or so west on 15th Sideroad, be sure to visit the farmgate of Susan and Lindsay's Pinecreek Honey (905-702-5722). Make sure you check out their unique beeswax candles. The pine trees and pine cone candles are great gift ideas for Christmas.

A 10 minute drive west and then south on 5th Line will bring you to fresh free-range eggs, just south of 10th Sideroad. I neglected to get the actual name of the place, but it's easy to find by looking for the 'Big Brown Eggs' sign. Adding to the interest of the farm are some large, open pens containing an interesting selection of birds a little more exotic than commercial chickens.

Back up to 10th Sideroad, it's just a short drive to Andrews Scenic Acres at #9365 between 3rd and 4th Line. I've been coming here for years, particularly in mid-summer in order to stock up on blackcurrants, the only local grower I've been able to find. They have pick-your-own and pre-picked of a wide variety of fruits over the season and as an added bonus they have their own fruit winery. The blackcurrant wine is a multiple award winner and it really deserves it!

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