Last Friday was hands down the definition of FriYAY. My colleague, Kenda, and I were invited to spend the day onsite at Plan B Organic Farms in Hamilton, Ontario. A 50-acre, organic farm growing just about everything from various kitchen herbs, to berries, to root vegetables, to garlic and the juiciest tomatoes I've ever tasted!
We were introduced to the farm back in March by Irene Matys, also known as The Spicy Olive. An incredible Chef, food stylist, and farm to table advocate, with a huge heart filled with love (and good food!) to give. Irene is a refugee from Cyrus. As a young child who often went hungry, her love and appreciation for food was instilled at a very young age. Her love and want to give and share stems from her gratitude for having been given such a wonderful life here in Canada. Irene has made quite a name for herself thanks to her tasty looking Instagram, which landed her a gig as the Food Stylist for Marilyn Denis and various other Bell Media projects. We had met Irene at the Power of Women Symposium I had organized for women's month at Studio.89 in partnership with Raine Network. She had heard about the event through one of the speakers I had contacted, also a local foodie and Instagram influencer. Irene and I instantly became pals after sharing our experiences, our love for empowering others, and of course, our love and passion for food! Irene had talked about this farm she had been volunteering at for two years, working with Chilean farmers and giving back through her delicious cooking. I was so curious and had to check it out. Four months later, I finally did!
A brief background on Plan B Organic Farms: the venture stemmed from an urban farming project founders Alvaro Venturelli and Melanie Golba, husband and wife, had been involved in back in 1996. After recruiting Alvo's brother, Rodrigo, they launched the farm in 1997, now marking 20 years of organic farming. The farm provides local produce to families across Hamilton and the GTA, as well as education to curious eyes and ears who want to learn about organic farming and have an opportunity to help out in the fields.
Kenda and I rolled up in my little white mini at 10 AM Friday morning to the farm house, down a small path off of 5th Concession Road. We were met by smiles and a shock of excitement as Irene came jumping towards the car to embrace us both. The three handsome gentleman sitting around the front of the porch, like a typical farm scene, captured us with their gentle eyes and beautiful smiles; Rodrigo from Chile, Miguel from Mexico, and Camilo from Colombia. We admired the farm house porch, piled with musical instruments and empty tequila bottles. On the other side of the "driveway", a dozen chickens, turkeys and ducks wandered around freely, mingling with the three family dogs onsite keeping guard for any rattle snacks and coyotes.
Irene was our tour guide for the morning before we joined Rod and Camilo in the carrot field. The tour began with checking out the new addition: a MASSIVE industrial kitchen to be used for cooking tutorials and programs (which I 100% plan on taking advantage of for some awesome youth programming!). They also have a massive fridge, literally the size of my one-bedroom apartment (maybe bigger!) for storing produce before weekday deliveries to various markets and depots across the GTA. The rest of the farm is made up of beautifully kept soil, rich with nutrients to grow all sorts of vegetables, as well as five greenhouses. Currently they are getting ready to harvest tomatoes, kale, herbs and lettuce. Ready to go includes their incredibly fragrant and plump looking garlic. As we toured, Irene stuffed me with treats of bumblebee tomatoes wrapped in basil, mojito mint (as they like to call it) and the freshest peppermint leaves. I'll literally never chew gum again. The smell of the farm is better than any fine dining restaurant I've ever had the pleasure of being seated in, and the family vibe present in the air is so welcoming. I was instantly invited to come back again and again - which I plan on doing!
After the grand tour, we got to work pulling weeds away from the carrot patch. I was thankful for my ridiculous idea of being a cliche and wearing overalls to the farm. They most definitely came in handy as I got down on my hands and knees and picked away, disturbing the hundreds of creatures living within the soil, feeding off the greenery. Irene, Rod, Camilo, Kenda and I swapped life stories filled with giggles while pulling away at unwanted intruders. Our stories distracted me from my weeding, which would then lead to Rod having to help me out. He was so quick! Pulling at everything, except carrots, their green tops sticking straight out of the soil, while mine laid across the soil as I awkwardly worked around them (I think I sat on them a few times, too!). I eventually got the hang of it, avoiding the carrots, keeping my butt away, and enjoying the warmth of the sun on my now burnt lower back and shoulders.
Lunch was served in Alvo and Melanie's house on the other side of the field. Irene made up the most delicious and fresh salad I've ever had with deviled eggs made with avocado - everything fresh, organic and available onsite at the farm. Dessert was strawberry and mint granitas, topped with Tequila if you were daring enough.
Alvo and Melanie are a lovely couple with so many stories to share. Between the two brothers, Miguel and Camilo there were enough stories to keep you engaged all day long. All are so well traveled with huge hearts and a love for sharing. I envy their commitment and dedication to something so essential for us all, that many young people forget to think twice about: our food.
I was so in love with the whole day I've already committed to doing a few September days there. Hopefully I can pick up some Spanish along the way, too!
Envious of my farm day? Be sure to check out where they deliver and you can be treated to the freshest and most flavourful veggies and fruit too. Email me for details on my next trip to come along and volunteer!