News Local

Savouring Simcoe

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

MIDHURST - John Greaves hitched up his horse and drove to the Barrie Farmers' Market from his home in Dalston every weekend throughout the year.

He'd sell his freshly grown, chemical-free produce in the summer, and chopped firewood in the winter months.

Four generations and 135 years later, his great-nephew, James Greaves, is opening up Farmgate, a drive-thru chemical-free beef window to allow his customers to once again, buy directly from a farmer.

"Most people have never had the opportunity to buy fresh, never frozen local meat," said Greaves from his booth at the Savour Simcoe fair, Sunday.

Greaves, of Black Angus Farmgate paired with Nottawasaga Resort, was one of 16 farmers paired with a local restaurant that took part in the 4th annual Savour Simcoe at the Simcoe County Museum.

Greaves said the last 100 years of farming saw the advent of farmers creating factory farms that specialized in one product or herd to maintain an edge against competitors as far away as China and Australia.

These days, folks want fresh food from people they trust, he said.

"Events like this allow us to show what we can do. We're now selling directly to the consumer and it's our reputation on the line. We need our worst (cheapest cut of meat) steak to be better than the best steak you'd buy in a grocery store."

His 'worst' was a tasty flank steak that melted in your mouth on contact.

With more than 400 admitted 'foodies' rambling through the forested trails behind the museum tasting, nibbling and imbibing the county's finest fare prepared by the area's best chefs, Greaves wasn't the only farmer preaching to the converted.

"Maybe it doesn't matter if your plastic widget is produced in China, but food is the essence of life," said Morris Gervais of Barrie Hill Farms who paired with Georgian College to produce a pork dinner with potatoes and a blueberry chutney.

He pointed to a blue box and said, "Twenty-five years ago, we didn't know what a blue box was. I'm hoping 25 years from now everyone will consider buying local as commonplace as we now think of blue boxes."

Across the way, brothers Derek, 26, and Brandon Sisera, 24, were trying out pork from Nicholyn Farms prepared by the Collingwood Cooking Academy.

"We grew up on a farm and have an Italian background," said Derek as he groaned over the pork in pastry dish.

"This is a great way to stimulate the local economy," his brother agreed, stopping to chew only long enough to spit out the one sentence.

Walking through the trails with wine samples in one hand and napkins wiping chins in the other, a common comical scene saw folks nodding in agreement with their companions, making happy eye signals instead of conversation, simply because their mouths were too full to talk.

Lisa Ruddy, 42, and her friends, Jenny Crossland, 39, and Christina Berry, 41, were taking a break from eating as they said they ate too much too fast last year and didn't want to ruin their food-orgy again this year.

"That was the best chocolate milk you'll ever have in your life," said Ruddy, pointing to the Simcoe County Dairy Producers booth with both Canadian-made Steens mils and Chapmans ice-cream for offer.

"We tried some of the Orillia samplings (Era 67 and Sixteen Front) and they've really picked up their game this year," said Berry.

They agreed the out-of-doors setting at the museum was the perfect locale, as they quietly digested and surveyed their next booth on the map.

With more than 16 booths and twice as many dishes, most patrons couldn't try every sample Sunday afternoon.

With specialty fares such as Akram's Shoppe of Toronto, and Eco-Huronie of LaFontaine handing out mini sliders of pulled pork with chipotle and lime coleslaw, the gastro juices were at their limit when they tried the Mini Dingo Farms chocolate covered beet-cake and bacon ice cream delight.

"We're foodies, we don't go to chain restaurants," said Ruddy. "So we're loving this... but we've really got to pace ourselves."

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