farmers

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Three new “micro-dairies” split from the great big Ontario milk pool

Lovers of fine dairy (and those brought up on farms) have long complained that the lion’s share of milk available in Ontario is the processed, homogenized stuff from the pool overseen by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario. But starting this summer, three new “micro-dairies”—Sheldon Creek Dairy, Miller’s Dairy and Limestone Organic Creamery—are selling old-fashioned, cream-on-top bottles produced from their own small herds of cows. As Jennifer Bain explains in the Toronto Star, it’s part of a new program called Project Farmgate, which allows Ontario farmers to market their own single-herd supply under their own brands. The milk from Miller’s Dairy, for example, all comes from Jersey cows (unlike the usual Holstein). According to owner John Miller, that means it has “more flavour than regular milk.” Raw milk fans shouldn’t get their hopes up, though: this stuff is all pasteurized. Sorry. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

The Dish

Drinks

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A new craft beer competition challenges local brewers to use local hops

Despite the recent peak in interest (and consumption) of Ontario craft beers, one crucial component of those brews is seldom made locally: the hops. Now, a new craft beer competition put on by the Ontario Hop Growers’ Association will see Ontario brewers (and Brewmaster students) using regionally-grown hops in the hopes that it will encourage future partnerships between brewers and farmers. (While Ontario breweries aren’t necessarily opposed to the use of Ontario-grown hops, the crop was in short supply a few years back, forcing breweries to rely on imports from the U.S. and central Europe.) About 15 beers will face off next February in Niagara Falls to get things hopping (sorry). [The Great Ontario-Hopped Craft Beer Competition]

The Informer

Features

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Editor’s Letter (August 2012): digging up the dirt

Sarah FulfordToronto has been growing at a ferocious rate for as long as I can remember. The Greater Toronto Area has six million inhabitants now, and the province estimates that by 2021 we’ll be at more than seven million. I tend to take this constant expansion for granted. Many North American cities, however, look at us with envy: Buffalo, which was once an economic engine, is now shrinking at an alarming rate. The U.S. government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Buffalo’s economic revitalization, to little avail. Detroit, a city whose population fell by 25 per cent between 2000 and 2010, is now planning to slash services in thinly populated neighbourhoods to encourage residents to relocate to denser areas (the strategy is called “shrink to survive”). Toronto has the opposite problem: we have one of the highest per capita immigration rates in the world. Our challenge is figuring out how to quickly absorb all our newcomers.

All this growth is worth celebrating. It’s a sign of our desirability and our economic strength, and it bodes well for the future. There is, of course, a cost. As we construct new buildings and pave new roads, some of the natural landscape is sacrificed—which forces us to decide what areas are worth protecting, what areas are appropriate for expansion, and where we should go to excavate the raw materials needed for development.

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The Dish

Random Stuff

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Ontario’s corn the latest crop to be threatened by this year’s weird, scorching weather

(Image: haven't the slightest)

After the weather in southern Ontario played hot and cold this spring and devastated countless orchards, another local crop is in a precarious place. Corn, that fall favourite, was set to bring in a massive harvest this year, but if the dry weather keeps up, Ontario farmers could stand to lose out on a big yield, according to a story in the Toronto Star. Corn prices have risen 34 per cent in the past four weeks, largely because of drought-like conditions south of the border (if the weather improves, farmers here are in a position to make a pretty decent buck). The next 10 days will make or break the situation: if there’s a downpour, the rain will undo the leaf-curling damage already done by the hot, dry conditions that hit right at the crucial pollination stage. Don Kenny, a farmer near Ottawa, wistfully recalls to the Star seeing rain clouds on a drive to Hamilton: “You’ve got to be a producer to know what it feels like” when it finally rains, he says. Here’s hoping the “million-dollar” rain arrives on time. [Toronto Star]

The Dish

Food Events

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Weekly Eater: Toronto food events for July 2 to July 8

Farmer’s market season has arrived (Image: Kevin Ho)

Monday, July 2

  • 86’D With Ivy Knight: Check out a double bill at the at the Drake Lounge. First, a throw-down for the ultimate hangover cure: the Bloody Mary versus the Caesar. Second, a watermelon-eating contest. The Drake, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042. Find out more »
  • Piola’s Monday Night Mixer: A weekly aperitivo italiano with cocktail and beer specials and complimentary snacks. 1165 Queen St. W., 416-477-4652. Find out more »

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The Dish

Food Events

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Weekly Eater: Toronto food events for April 16 to 22


Monday, April 16

  • Jamie Kennedy’s Local Food Movement Dinner: Kennedy partners with 13th Street Winery for a four-course meal with wine pairings. Gilead Bistro, 4 Gilead Pl., 647-288-0680. Find out more »
  • Austria Uncorked: Taste vintages from 30 producers from the wine regions of Austria. Trump Hotel, 325 Bay St., 416-967-3348. Find out more »
  • Piola’s Monday Night Mixer: Starting this week, Piola offers aperitivo italiano on Monday evenings, with cocktail and beer specials and complimentary snacks. 1165 Queen St. W., 416-477-4652. Find out more »
  • Shellshocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves Canadian Premiere: The filmmaker and environmental experts discuss the importance of protecting North American waterways and oyster culture. Rodney’s Oyster House, 469 King St. W., 416-363-8105. Find out more »
  • 86’D: Ivy Knight hosts the launch of Culinary Adventure Co.’s 2012 season. The Drake, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042. Find out more »
  • Sorauren Farmers’ Market: 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the field house at Sorauren Park. 50 Wabash Ave. Find out more »

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The Dish

Food Events

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Weekly Eater: Toronto food events for March 12 to 18

Martin Picard will be cooking a five-course tasting menu at Canoe on Sunday to promote his new cookbook, Au Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack (Image: Marie-Claude St-Pierre)

Monday, March 12

  • Society for American Wines: Cabernet blends formal tasting. University of Toronto Faculty Club, 41 Willcocks St., 416-978-6325. Find out more »
  • 86’D: Join Ivy Knight for the premiere of Top Chef Canada 2012. With special guest chef Todd Perrin from season one. The Drake, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042. Find out more »
  • March Break: Kids Cooking Camp: A week of globally inspired cooking classes for little foodies. St. Lawrence Market, 92 Front St. E., 416-392-7120. Find out more »
  • Sorauren Farmers’ Market: 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the field house at Sorauren Park. 50 Wabash Ave. Find out more »

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The Dish

Random Stuff

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Poultry G-Men and supply management declared enemies of deliciousness in Canada

In today’s Globe and Mail, Mark Schatzker writes about Canada’s supply management system for eggs, chickens and cows, which he describes as “the enemy of deliciousness.” The article opens with scenes of inspectors from the Chicken Farmers of Ontario bursting upon the scene of unauthorized poultry operations and leaving crying Amish farm wives in their wake (along with fines of up to $10,000 a day). Schatzker argues that the high cost of quotas—$27,000 for one cow’s worth of dairy or $200 per laying hen—means that only high-volume, low-margin businesses can survive. As a result, the kind of specialty pastured poultry that’s raised in the U.S., like silver-laced Wyandottes, Jersey giants and barred Plymouth rocks, just makes no economic sense north of the border. Luckily, a loophole allows cheese makers to get around the quota system—as long as they can prove their product doesn’t taste like any existing Canadian product (apparently a team of bureaucrats in Ottawa gets to make that delicious call). There is hope on the horizon, however; Schatzker reports that Stephen Harper is looking at scrapping the whole system so that Canada can sign onto a new international trade deal. With any luck, local restaurants will soon be able to proudly host discerning diners like Peter and Nance. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

The Informer

Features

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Jan Wong: how the rise of horticultural training at Toronto schools is bad for students

While we’re busy teaching our kids to tend school gardens, they’re failing provincial tests in reading, writing and math. The folly of the new enviro-propaganda

The Horticultural Revolution

(Illustration: Tavis Coburn)

This fall, hundreds of Toronto students are harvesting beets and zucchini from their school gardens. I say: nice photo op, bad idea. The argument for school gardens assumes that by grubbing in the dirt, kids will learn to love eating vegetables. They won’t think chickens hatch into this world as deep-fried nuggets. And they’ll develop a respect for nature.

Here’s the counter-argument: our students shouldn’t be out scrabbling in the hot sun when one in five can’t pass the Grade 10 literacy test administered by the provincially funded Education Quality and Accountability Office. And while Canadian students score high internationally in reading, mathematics and the sciences, Statistics Canada says our relative ranking is declining due to improved performance by other countries. In this era of global competition, we can’t afford to let other nations nip at our heels.

Half of Toronto’s population was born outside Canada, and it’s a safe bet many of them came here for a better life, including a good education for their offspring. A lot of immigrants originate from agrarian regions of countries such as India, Pakistan, China and the Philippines. The last thing these newcomers need is a morality crusade about carrots. Yet more than 200 of Toronto’s nearly 600 public schools now have gardens, and an army of well-meaning parents, volunteers, activists and advocacy organizations with a social agenda is successfully lobbying for more.

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The Dish

Random Stuff

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Farmers’ markets brace for a potential fee hike that could put them out of business

(Image: Suzanne Long)

Fears are spreading throughout the Toronto Farmers’ Market Network that participants at city markets might soon be on the receiving end of a large user fee increase from the city. Anne Freeman of the Dufferin Grove market and Carolyn Wong of Trinity Bellwoods are just two of the market organizers who have been circulating a petition in an attempt to head off the hike. “You don’t attack your food source,” a frustrated Wong told The Dish.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Best of the City 2011: Three stops for your meat, fish and fruits and veggies

Best of the City: Food

(Image: Carlo Mendoza)

Game Fish Farmers’ market

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The Dish

Restaurants

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DIY BBQ Guide: three meat delivery services for locavores who can’t fit a side of beef in their freezer

From farm to freezer

(Image: Joel Kimmel)

Being a locavore doesn’t come cheap. While buying in bulk can help, not everyone has a minivan and a deep-freeze big enough for a side of beef. The solution? Meat boxes, delivered monthly from the farm.

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The Dish

Openings

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With Sausage Partners, Kyle Deming plans to contribute yet another chef-run fine food shop to the Leslieville strip

The Sausage Partners: Lorraine, Lilly and Kyle Deming (Image: Signe Langford)

First there was the Leslieville Cheese Market, then the Foodist Market, then Hooked, and now Sausage Partners. Leslieville is rapidly becoming the east end’s go-to ’hood for gourmet food shopping, and with many of these places being run by pro chefs, it’s easy to see why. This new meat shop will open in June in the former Inspired Cook space, with Kyle Deming (head chef at Starfish and Ceili Cottage) and his wife Lorraine at the helm. “We’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time,” explains Lorraine, “but we really got the push about two years ago when we made sausages for Patrick [McMurray]’s 40th birthday. Everyone was asking, ‘Where can we buy these?’ So we just kept thinking about it and it feels like the right time now.”

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The Informer

Features

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Gone to pot: the story behind Toronto’s $100-million marijuana economy

Vietnamese gangs recruit teams of immigrants, install elaborate hydroponic equipment in their basements, and train them to raise potent plants. When the grow ops get raided by police—and they inevitably do—it’s the lowly growers who take the fall. The sinister figures at the top continue to operate with impunity

Tam Ngoc Tran had a comfortable life in his native Vietnam. He was an electrical engineer with a decent income, enough to support his wife and three kids. But, like so many immigrants, he was seduced by the promise of a better future in Canada, and in 1989, at age 41, he moved his family to Toronto. Once here, the best job Tran could find was as a labourer with a company that made marble tabletops. His wife, Lien Thi Pham, worked double shifts in a factory. After several years, they managed to scrape together enough money and cashed in an RRSP to make a down payment on a house—a $220,000 semi at 96 Driftwood Avenue, in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood. Tran, Pham and the children, who were then 20, 15 and 10, moved in in 1997.

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The Dish

Food Porn

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Holiday Gift Guide: 13 edible present ideas

We prefer to pass the holiday season by eating our way through it and forcing loved ones to do the same. So we’ve come up with 13 inventive edible gifts (and not a mini-muffin basket in sight).

See our foodie gift guide now >>

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