An exciting tour of local agriculture and cooperatives was held in Dryden on Saturday September 23rd! Local food enthusiasts, including some from as far away as Sioux Lookout, attended the event to learn more about local food producers, processors, and co-ops in the area, working together to build a thriving local food system. The event was held in partnership with the Dryden Development Corporation (DDC), Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op (CLFC), and the Cloverbelt Country Farmers’ Market (CCFM).
The first stop of the tour was to visit the Rhyner family at Timber Hills Farm in Oxdrift. Visitors viewed the farm’s 70 cow beef herd on pasture and the few hogs that they raise as well. This farm also grows grains and forages for on-farm use and the Rhyners recently finished storing their silage for use throughout the winter. Tour participants also learned that this farm relies on the local abattoir to process some of their animals. Conveniently, the abattoir is right down the road from the farm and was the next stop for the tour!
At the abattoir, Roger Griffiths (Robin Hill Farm and president of CCMC) provided history about Cloverbelt Country Meats Co-op Inc. (CCMC, formerly Griffith’s Country Meats). Griffiths and Jen Springett, president of Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op, and Northwest Coordinator for Local Food and Farm Co-ops (LFFC), shared the history of CCMC with visitors. They discussed the need for such vital infrastructure in local food systems, and explained how the abattoir became a non-profit cooperative. CCMC is currently applying for funding to provide upgrades to the facility and its equipment. Participants got a behind the scenes tour of the facility, including the processing room and smoker, and enjoyed some tasty CCMC products.
The next stop on the tour was just down the road at Wall’s Pork Shop. The Walls are a long time farming family in Oxdrift and have an extremely unique farm for the area. Visitors saw the 10 acre market garden as well as the farrow-to-finish pork operation. The Walls also have an on-site licensed slaughter facility where they process their own animals. This means that pork products sold by the Walls come from animals born, raised, and processed on their farm!
The tour then brought participants to the Cloverbelt Country Farmers’ Market in Oxdrift where participants caught the second last market of the 2017 season! Visitors browsed the booths and enjoyed a locally prepared snack made by the Zurbrigg’s. Christel Kamm with Agriculture in the Classroom had fun activities planned for the kids where they made crafts with fallen leaves and local vegetation.
The tour ended at the CLFC Community Greenhouse in Dryden. There Pekka and Rendy of Gardens of Delight shared gardening knowledge and spoke about the benefits of participating in a community greenhouse. Rendy noted that the schools using the plots donated by CLFC have a hard time keeping up with their gardens over the summer when school's out. To overcome this, she teaches the children about gardening and growing food during the school year, and the school allows her to use the vegetables grown in the beds throughout the summer so that nothing goes to waste. It’s a partnership that works for everyone! Thank you to our partners for helping us share the value of co-ops in Northwestern Ontario food systems.