Spring has Sprung

IMG_7283Springtime on the farm is something that I await with anticipation. No matter how much I love winter (which I do); there is something just amazing about springtime. All of the pastures are starting to green up, the song birds are back, our animals start to have their babies and there is more light. Waking up to daylight makes it so much easier to get out of bed.

 

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This spring we’ve been working on pruning the apple trees, bringing in firewood for next fall/winter, starting all of our seedlings in the greenhouse, spreading compost on the fields, keeping all of the animals alive and healthy, and some bigger maintenance opportunities. We’re building 2 big tent platforms for our 16′ dia. prospector tents, which are where Kevin and Mason will be living for the season. To learn more about our fabulous 2017 farm crew, click here.

 

2017 Farm Letter and Order Info

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Dear Customers,

If now is not the moment to read an update about goings-on around the farm, the important thing to take away from this letter is that we strongly encourage you to put your meat orders for 2017 in NOW. It is essential to order now for pork and beef that you’d like to get this spring and summer as our pigs have grown very well and go to the butcher this month. Our next pigs likely won’t be ready until August, and similarly with the beef – we’re sending some in May and then won’t send the next ones until September.

Order online here. Send us an email with your order. Call us (519.528.2493), or print off the form and scan/mail or fax it back to us.

horses pulling sleigh full of hay through snow

It’s hard to believe that over the course of the last 2.5 months we’ve had such yo-yo-ing weather. Yesterday was balmy, sunny and snow free (though the wind was pretty bitter), while today there are a couple of inches of snow already on the ground and more making its way down to be blown about while we take hay out to the cattle in the back pasture.

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We started 2016 off transitioning the farm business from Tony and Fran to me, and we ended the year with the sale/transfer of the property. It was a remarkable year – full of new learnings, laughter, hard work and remembering why we are committed to this work and way of life. We put a lot of resource into additional infrastructure and systems that would make it more manageable for me as Tony and Fran transition into how they want to continue being involved with the farm, which means working less. It has been a great opportunity to reflect and think about why we do things certain ways and how we do things and if there are opportunities for improvement.

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We feel very fortunate that on the whole we’re healthy and happy. Working with other members of our family is a joy most days, and it’s a treat to be able to weave Rachel, Robin, Elliot and Emily into the goings on whenever they are able to join us. It is incredibly rewarding to have a multi-generational farm that is a gathering place for friends, family and community.

Cinnamon and Jazmin check each other outAs we look forward, we are thrilled to introduce you to our 2017 season farm team additions: Ellie Greenler and Mason Sharp. Both are experienced, passionate and thoughtful farmers. We do still have one more apprentice opportunity open, so if you know of anyone who is interested in learning organic, diversified farming techniques, please invite them to get in touch ASAP.

Wildflowers from MPOFFor local folks, we’re excited to announce that we’re doing a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) vegetable share, flower CSA, with optional egg add-on, and will also be at the Goderich and Kincardine farmer’s markets each Saturday. Check out our CSA page for more info and to sign up! Or call us to find out more information. Please share with anyone you think might be interested. For us the CSA isn’t just about growing and sharing good vegetables, but also about developing community around food and the farm. We’ll keep a CSA blog to keep you up to date on what to expect in your box, share recipes, and have a couple socials for CSA members to meet each other and get more of the farm experience.

img_7643We’re also excited that Lydia and Jazmin, our 2 French alpine goats, will be kidding in May. Not only will this add an extra layer of cuteness and playfulness to the farm, but it also means that starting fall 2017 we will have a limited amount of cabrito available. Let us know if you’re interested.

As always, we hope that you’ll be able to come out to the farm – either for a visit when picking up your order, or for our May Open House; this year, Saturday, May 13th, (10am-4pm) and Sunday, May 14th, (1-4pm) 2017. Come out to pick up pre-ordered beef and pork, maple syrup, honey and low-sugar farm jams, purchase organic seedlings, have a farm tour, horse drawn wagon rides, (gluten free) sausage on a bun and much much more!

IMG_4104We’re glad to be sharing our life’s work with you in the form of high quality, sustainably raised and grown, organic meat and produce. Thank you for supporting our farm and family. We trust you enjoy eating it as much as we enjoy producing it.

All the best,

Katrina McQuail

PS. Tag/follow us on Instagram @meetingplaceorganicfarm or follow/like us on Facebook

Upcoming House Show

alex-bienWe’re very excited to be welcoming one of our past apprentices- Alex Bien back to the farm for a house concert on February 4th, 2017 as part of his Ontario tour.

The details:

Doors open at 7:30pm

Music starts at 8:00pm and goes till 10:00pm with an intermission.

Bring your own instruments if you can stay after to jam.

There will be snacks and refreshments to nibble during the show, but you’re welcome to bring something to contribute.

Cost: Pay what you can. Suggested donation of $15-$20.

Opportunity to purchase CDs and other merchandise on site.

Limited seating – please RSVP to Katrina or purchase you ticket here.

2017 Preview

Twenty sixteen isn’t quite done, but we’re already looking ahead to 2017. We’ve got big plans for the farm, including:

IMG_8039Restarting our community supported agriculture (CSA) vegetable garden model. We’re looking for local households that want to receive fresh, seasonally appropriate, organically grown vegetables each week of the summer. We’ll provide you with recipes and tips on what to use them for. You’ll be signing up to be part of our broader farm community, with community socials and a deeper connection to the ebbs and flows of the seasons.

Wildflowers from MPOFPotentially starting up a flower / bouquet CSA. We’ve been inspired by other farmers that we know across the USA and Canada who are adding beauty to the lives of those around them by offering organically grown flowers either in pre-made bouquets or as a do-it-yourself option. No one wants to bring hidden sprays and chemicals into their homes, so avoid them by opting for sustainably grown flowers.

alex-bienSocial and educational events! We’ve already got our first house concert scheduled with Alex Bien, one of our 2010 apprentices. He’ll be on tour and is stopping in on February 4th, 2017 to bring the Lodge alive with his music. We’ll have tickets for this and other social and educational events early in 2017. Contact us for more information or to reserve your spot!

All of this on top of what we’ve always been doing:

2013 05 17 Favourite-CalfGrass-fed beef. Our cattle spend almost all of their lives out on pasture, with only the occasional visit to the barn, mainly if the weather is particularly unpleasant, or if we need to handle them and it is easier to use gates instead of electric fencing. Our cattle eat only grass and hay and graze as a herd, except during breeding season, when those we don’t want bred are kept separate from the bull.

Forest-PigsPastured Pork. Our sows, Sneeze and Hiccup are all cozy for the winter, waiting to farrow in March and treat us to another couple litters of adorable piglets whole live the majority of their lives out on pasture. They make mud pits, root around in the grass and make sport out of racing back and forth to the feeders when we check in on them at least twice a day.

2013 06 23 212Pastured Chicken. Our poultry are raised in pens (to protect them from animals and birds that think they’d make a tasty snack) that are moved daily onto fresh grass. They spend their days deciding whether they want to be in the shade or sunlight, chasing after insects and scratching in the dirt and grass. We think they’ve got it pretty good.

And… if we have time, energy and capacity, we’ve got ideas about a pie-of-the-month club, fresh bread and so much more! Keep checking back to see what else we’re rolling out, or sign up to be part of our email newsletters here.

 

A look back on 2016

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I know it isn’t quite the end of the year, but we’re close enough.

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Tony unrolling hay for cattle

It’s been a big year here at Meeting Place Organic Farm. The year started with me (Katrina) purchasing the farm business from Tony and Fran which required a significant amount of figuring out what all that meant. Having to register the farm business name under me, opening new business bank accounts, transferring vendor accounts with numerous businesses that we purchase equipment, supplies and the like from the folks to my name (with the farm name). And on, and on, and on…

 

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Sneeze with piglets

We also started 2016 having just farrowed our first litters of piglets! So we were learning the ins and outs of raising pork up from newborn. What a lovely, rewarding adventure. I can’t express in words the amount of joy that spending time with the piglets (and their mamas) gave me throughout the winter of 2016.

 

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Gailen and Ginger (Fjords)

Another one of our big livestock decisions in early 2016 was to sell our lovely team of Norwegian Fjord draft horses. Though we loved their spunk and impressive ability to pull and work given their size, with us moving from a 2 person full time operation to a 1 person full time operation, efficiency will be more important. So, we set our sights on a larger team and purchased Barb and Song in February. They are a Belgian Appaloosa cross and purebred Suffolk Punch.

 

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T&F ready for Spain!

Though I have taken over the business, Tony and Fran have continued to be an integral part of our farm operation. Without their hard work, mentorship, wisdom and experience, I wouldn’t be able to take things over as smoothly as I have (and that isn’t to say that we think everything has been all roses). They went to Spain for the month of March for a much deserved holiday and to give me the chance to solo the farm.

 

Meeting Place Organic Film TRAILER from Meeting Place Organic Film on Vimeo.

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Victoria with Duchess

They arrived back in April just in time to be present at the world premier of Meeting Place Organic Film; a documentary about them and the farm. Check out the website about it here. Barb (one of our new mares) had a foal that same morning. April fools on us! Duchess is a beautiful, spunky Belgian/Appaloosa and Suffolk-Punch cross. In April, we also started our first batch of meat chickens – this year as part of the CFO Artisinal Flock program.

 

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Tony gives wagon ride

In May we had our annual Mother’s Day weekend open house. (Save the date for our 2017 one – May 13th and 14th) which was full of fun farm tours, horse drawn wagon rides, sampling our organic pork sausages, organic seedlings of all sorts for sale, the first beef pickups of the year and a kids quiz board. It was a beautiful weekend and we feel fortunate to have so many people who make the trek out to the farm to spend a day or a weekend with us.

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Robin & Rachel canoe with kiddos

May is also when our apprentices arrived to become part of our farm team, and when Song lost her foal in birth. Unexpectedly losing an animal at any point in their life can be incredibly sad and hard and we mourned the loss of her life. We had other livestock losses and surprises this summer, losing one of this years calves in July and a 2 year old steer in September to unknown causes. This just happens sometimes. However, there were delights as well. We had a beautiful surprise when we got back from our annual family canoe trip in August: A cow we’d give up on having a calf back in May with all of the rest of them, surprised us with a healthy bull calf.

 

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Jazmine

We decided to add a pair of French Alpine goats to our operation this season. Lydia and Jasmine have been adding personality as well as delightful goat’s milk to our lives. We’ve been experimenting with making yogurt, soft and hard cheeses and even ice cream! In part our desire to have milk goats was motivated by my desire to reduce the amount of disposable plastic in my life, of which, store-bought dairy products are a huge contributor.

 

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grazing cattle

By June we were at full throttle. We were moving cattle on pasture with all of their new calves; Sneeze and Hiccup both farrowed again, adding another beautiful bunch of piglets to our lives; we were milking Lydia; pasturing our first batch of meat chickens while brooding the second batch; the December 2015 piglets had turned into fat pigs and were ready for market. Not to mention having done a few Farmer’s Markets, getting ready to hay and keeping up with our modest (NOT) 1 acre home garden!

 

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Sunrise from the house

The summer whizzed by – I had a couple conferences I was heavily involved in organizing which took some of my attention away from the farm while home and meant I ended up being away from the farm for about 20 days between June and July. Fortunately Tony and Fran along with our team of apprentices meant that things continued to run smoothly. We got away for our annual family canoe trip with Rachel, Robin, Elliot and Emily which was a great time. We also added a feed bin tower to the little hill beside the barn – which will hopefully make managing feed for the poultry and pigs significantly easier and less physically demanding. (Fingers crossed) No more having to climb inside a feed wagon and manually shovel the grain towards the outlet or haul bucket after bucket to the feed freezers that we use store feed close to the animals pasture areas.

 

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Fran received the 2016 Agnes MacPhail award for work around the advancement of women.

The summer’s weather was an interesting and challenging one, though not as extreme for us as for most farmers. This year we had a pretty severe drought in June, July and August. We had to modify our pasture management and grazing patterns to allow for significantly more regrowth time than we normally would, and our garden required much more irrigating than an average year. We’d planted out 100 new trees along our property line and as wind breaks in the spring and our apprentices spent many an hour taking a tank along to water them so that they wouldn’t die before they were able to get established. As climate change continues to occur, it seems that we will be needing to address more and more extreme weather conditions, so we continue to try and have flexibility in our farm plans and models as well as to have extra hay and feed on hand so that we are able to make adjustments as necessary.

 

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Ellie at Ignatius Open Farm Days

The fall brought the apple harvest, which was a bumper crop. We’ll be enjoying frozen fresh cider for months to come! It was also a time of bounty – harvesting from the garden, making pickles, canning tomatoes, making jams and freezing all sorts of vegetables. We did a few more Farmer’s Markets and have also been busy with meat deliveries into Toronto, Burlington, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo and London areas. We’ve strengthened relationships with a couple other farms, so were able to join Ignatius farm during their open farm days, selling our own gluten-free pork sausages on a bun! We also now have an apprentice whose family runs Quaker Oaks Farm up near Sebright, ON that are carrying our meat and can be a delivery rendezvous point for folks who’d like to order bigger quantities of stuff from us.

 

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Carrot harvest

We enjoyed the beautiful weather that lasted until the end of November in terms of getting work done outside around the farm. We did our fall plowing, planted the garlic, tried out our new paper mulch layer and we able to keep the cattle grazing grass much later that we’d expected. We’ve sold out of whole and halved chickens as well as lamb. We do have chicken livers still available, though eventually I’ll get around to making them into pate! We’ve sold most of our grass-fed beef and pastured pork, but do have some 20 pound mixed packs and lots of pork sausages, ribs and some bacon left for 2016. You can order online here, or send an email or give us a call.

 

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Cattle winter grazing

We’re now (mostly) enjoying the snow and winter weather. Fran is working incredibly hard to make sure that all of our financials are up to date so that we can spend early January looking at our year end and use it to make educated estimates for our 2017 year. While she is spending much of her time at the computer, Tony is spending much of his time taking large bales of round hay out to the cattle in our winter pasture and using our snow scoop to keep the lane clear so that we can get out and customers and guests can get in. I have been doing a bit of everything – out working with dad and the animals, sometimes working on catching up on emails, marketing, book keeping, etc… and also off on the road – making meat deliveries and getting to catch a few moments with our customers to hear about how the year has been for them.

 

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Stockings for the whole clan

The next couple weeks will be low key. Our family celebrations are keeping us home this year, which is exactly what I want. I’ll be hosting a group of friends – both local and from afar for a New Years celebration. But mostly, we’ll be tucked in, finalizing our 2016 year, making plans for 2017, doing enterprise analysis and doing our chores!

Thank you for yet another wonderful year. It’s a pleasure and joy to be providing with our community with sustain-ably raised, organic meats as well as fruits and vegetables.

With so much gratitude, small-signature

  • PS. To see what we’re planning for 2017, which includes a CSA vegetable garden and possible flower CSA, check out our blog post here.

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Apples, apples and more apples!

cropped-cropped-iphone6-1124.jpgLast year was a bumper apple crop year, so I had assumed that this year would be nothing to sniff at. As usually it alternates between bumper crop and low yield year…

Was I ever wrong! This year we had tons of apples again. I would claim that it was my amazing job of pruning, but lets be honest… our apple trees, though very loved, are rather neglected because pruning always falls to the bottom of the to-do list. Though, I am proud of the couple trees that I was able to prune before other things pulled me away.

Needless to say, we’ve been eating and selling fresh apples, making a number of batches of apple butter and also making, selling and freezing a bunch of fresh pressed apple cider – it stores beautifully in the freezer so you can drink it all year! So, if you’re looking to get your hands on some product made with certified organic apples – we’ve got them for you! We’ll also have some new apple cider vinegar in the new year, once the natural fermentation process takes place.

We had so many apples this year that even with the help of some friends and neighbours as well as a wonderful group of CRAFT apprentices who were here for an educational day in September, we weren’t able to pick them all. This means we’ve left some in the tree (mostly the hard to reach ones) and they’ll provide food and beauty as we move into the winter. Kind of like mother nature’s all natural decorations.

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Documentary Premier Screening!

One of the things that we don’t do nearly enough of on the farm is celebrate. So, it is with lots of joy and excitement that I invite you all to join us for the premier of the

Meeting Place Organic Farm Documentary

Saturday, April 2nd
2pm
Huron County Museum, Goderich, ON

A Collaborative Community Film

The politics of food, land use and resource management are the most pressing issues the world faces today, and it’s all happening right in our back yards.

In 1973 Fran and Tony McQuail bought a rundown farm near Lucknow, Ontario, a region dominated by monocropping and industrial agriculture . Over the last four decades, these environmental warriors have built a sustainable and ecologically sound farm that stands as a model for others.

Using Holistic Management techniques and permaculture design principles, Meeting Place Organic Farm has evolved into a diversified operation with grass fed beef, pastured pork and chicken, a large vegetable garden, an apple orchard and a 25 acre wood lot.  What the McQuails have built over the past forty years at Meeting Place Organic Farm is unique and inspiring and has the potential to spark real change in the way that we view our relationship with food and the ecosystem. The collaborative nature of this evolution will be reflected by the inclusion of many voices including the extended McQuail family, current and former apprentices and others in the broader farming, social and political communities.

Meeting Place Organic Film is a collaborative community film that is collecting and telling the stories that are important to the communities the McQuail’s belong to and further the conversation about how we produce and consume food. Director Rebecca Garrett and Producer Britt Gregg-Wallace have known Fran and Tony for many years and have always been impressed by their commitment to organic farming, ecology and social justice.  Their actions – from running for political office, to training young organic farmers, to limiting their use of non-renewable resources  – are deeply integrated with their values and intersect with their everyday lives.  From the very beginning, the McQuail family has actively participated in the process of making the film. They bring the same approach to the film as they do to the farm, working tirelessly and cheerfully to find thoughtful solutions to immediate problems with an eye on what is best for the planet and future generations. Their broader communities of rural residents and sustainable food enthusiasts have been involved in the funding of the project and, most importantly, in sharing their thoughts on what matters to them.

Not only does this film explore the very real ways one farm has contributed to the long term ecological viability of agriculture in Ontario, it is also a call to action for all those who believe there is a better way to take care of our planet and feed the world.

Piglets!!!

IMG_6328I’m at that age where everyone is having babies. My facebook news feed is full of my favourite people, photos of their ultrasounds, newborn pictures and then photos of their wee one(s) as they grow. Someday I may join them in the realm of human babies.

But in 2015, I became the proud “parent”, “father” even, of 18 piglets. Some of you may be confused by this. But, having been the primary provider of artificial insemination (AI), I feel that I can claim being directly responsible for both Sneeze and Hiccup’s litters of piglets. Bryan gets credit as well.

I came back to the farm full time, permanently, starting January 1, 2015. Pigs have always been one of my favourite farm animals, and I decided that if I was taking over the farm business from my renowned parents, I needed to make part of it – me. So, we purchased 2 certified, organic Berkshire/Duroc gilts from friends and I started my steep learning curve about everything pig.

We’ve raised pigs for years from chunks. Pasturing them, feeding them, providing them with an incredible life, before finishing them. But… We’d NEVER bred, farrowed and raised piglets up from birth. So, why not now?

IMG_6201 Lets just say that there is a lot, A LOT, of information out there about how old, and what weight you should first breed your gilts at. Then there is even more information about detecting their heats, how to get them to show their heat and the fine art of breeding. You tube and google definitely provided an ample amount of opportunities for me to have questionable search histories.

With the help of a local pastured pork guru – Jeff, the wisdom of my seamen delivery person – Louis, and the humour and support of my neighbour – Jake and support of my parents and other MPOF folks, we managed to get both Hiccup and Sneeze pregnant. Then, when we did the math about what 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days was from the various times they could have gotten pregnant, I realized that the majority of them were while I was away as a voluntary crew member on eXXpedition Amazon.

In December 2015,  between them, Sneeze and Hiccup gave birth to 18 wonderful, healthy piglets that we are currently raising up for our delicious early summer pork. They can’t wait to meet you at the May open farm days!IMG_6327

Farm Transitions

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We’ve known it was coming, but it is still a bit unreal to think that Tony and Fran are officially stepping a bit further back from running Meeting Place Organic Farm. As of January 1st, 2016 they have sold the farm business to (me) Katrina. They are still integral, important parts of the operation, but they are working on making this farm business succession a success!

There is lots for us to figure out in terms of what it means in the day to day, the logistical, the practical and the family dynamics side of things. But, there we have it.

Don’t worry. For you – our friends and customers, nothing in terms of the farm business is going to change (for the worse). We’re still going to be raising and loving our animals who have one bad-day to become the delicious meats that you’re used to getting from us. We will still have the apple orchard and our apple butter, and so-on and so-forth.

Think of this as us breathing a little energy into the operations and having more flexibility amongst those who can manage the farm to be able to continue to invest in our local community, and in ourselves and our family in new and exciting ways!

As always, thanks for your interest in our lives and support of the farm.