There are some moments that play an important milestone in the life of South Pond Farms. One of the first was hosting farm to table dinners at a time when no one knew much about us but nevertheless, made the journey out to our farm. Having a series on Netflix in eleven countries was also a pivotal moment. This year, being asked to host the Terroir Rural Retreat 2019 next Tuesday is another and an honour. It has always been my dream that our farm be a culinary destination and I believe this significant event speaks to fulfilling this notion.
The Rural Retreat is part of the Terroir Symposium, Canada’s leading hospitality and tourism event. It is held in Toronto on the Monday and the next day, the Rural Retreat is being held at our farm. “The retreat is a way to connect with the people and places that make Ontario’s food scene worth celebrating. There will be chefs from many of the Feast On certified restaurants in Ontario who come together to prepare a locally inspired feast over fires on the farm.” Both the retreat and the symposium are hosted by the Culinary Tourism Alliance, a not-for-profit organization focused on education, networking and development in the growing field of food tourism.
Food has always been the basis of my business. The restored barn and grounds are an important part of the farm for sure, but enjoying food inside the barn is what I envisioned when South Pond came into being. I began with a garden and creating prepared meals inspired by what we grew, I added stories with every email I sent out, stories of where my recipes came from, antidotes about the little family – a mom and her four daughters moving from the city to the country – and the struggle to find a balance between feeding chickens, having the pet goat, Millie living in the family room, the coyotes who raided the outdoor freezer and just the day to day of getting to school and putting dinner on the kitchen table.
South Pond started with a small mailing list of friends and is now over 8000, people who have signed up to keep connected with what we do. Today we no longer deliver food off the farm but people come to the farm to attend lunches, to walk the trails, to attend our Full Moon suppers or just to learn about the connection with agriculture and the food we make. We’ve been fortunate to have wonderful farmers and purveyors near-by who help us fill the plate at the table. It’s these relationships and collaborations that truly enable us to do what we do.
Bread was on our very first menu and it still is a critical part of our farm meals. We are fortunate to live in an area of Red Fife, a delicious and nutritious wheat that is part of Canada’s heritage and the Slow Food Ark of Taste. It was named after an Ontario Farmer, David Fife in 1840. Our sourdough bread is made with Red Fife and it adds an important texture. For our part at the Rural Retreat we will make traditional flat breads with heritage ancient grains such as Red Fife, Einkorn and Emmer. The latter two grains were one of the first plants in the world to be cultivated, have a higher percentage of protein and are more nutritious than most other wheats. There are some farmers in Ontario who are at the forefront to bring these grains back into the mainstream of baking.
Bread is a foundation of a meal. Bread transcends all cultures, economic and social boundaries. We break bread together, eat and bake together. By so doing, we create a human connection. Fire is a focal point for cooking and gathering and is an integral part of the Rural Retreat. People can bake with us over an open fire, topping their breads with our honey and foraged herbs. It’s a perfect way to celebrate our region and bring our community together.
South Pond Farms
I’m Danielle French, founder and owner of South Pond Farms. South Pond was founded in 2008 as a small food delivery business. I would grow food in my garden, make prepared meals and deliver them all over the GTA. Since then, the farm has been slowly restored and converted into a culinary destination, offering special events, weddings, workshops and corporate retreats all set in our restored century barn in the rolling hills of rural Ontario. My vision is to create a connection to the land, the food we grow and prepare in our kitchen to bringing people together.