A few years ago I read an article in the local paper about a young organic farmer in Uxbridge, Adrian Stocking of Willo' Wind Farm. It talked to the decreasing interest of young people in becoming farmers and why Adrian chose that route. The article got my attention and as a result I decided to make my first trip to the Uxbridge Farmer's Market to see this young farmer for myself. Immediately my husband and I were impressed with the organic farming practices that Adrian spoke of, on top of the impeccable quality of the produce and meat. From that day forward we became regular customers of Willo' Wind Farm.
As part of my culinary and food education I feel it is important to understand where the food that I am eating comes from and how it is handled. So, I contacted Adrian and asked if we could come for a visit to the farm, he happily agreed.
My husband, daughter and I were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit Willo' Wind Farm this past weekend. The farm is a 50 acre family farm dedicated to organic produce and livestock. They are dedicated to preserving the land naturally and regenerating it in a sustainable manner. When we arrived Adrian and his family were welcoming and hospitable. Adrian, accompanied by his three year old daughter, gave us a tour of the farm. He willingly shared information with us regarding their farming practices in comparison to conventional farming. It was clear he had nothing to hide and that he is proud of his family farm. I have seen enough documentaries to be skeptical of marketing versus actual farming practices, but I have to stay that Willo' Wind Farm is exactly how you would expect a family farm to be.
The first thing we discussed was how the season starts. We were shown the two greenhouses where the crops are started before the snow has even melted. Preparations were already underway for planting this season, by April they will begin to put the crops into the ground.
As we walked through the property Adrian explained that the livestock on the farm is kept primarily for compost, although some is sold for food. He also emphasized the importance of conserving the soil through the use of compost and rotation. These organic practices allow them to keep the soil nutrient rich and to continue to produce top quality produce. We walked through the barn that houses the sheep and goats, which is spacious and clean. Adrian even brought a lamb over for us to see!
The chicken coup was of great interest to me, since I eat a lot of chicken. The chickens were given free range of the coup and fenced in area, there were a few stragglers throughout the property, which made it more authentic in my opinion. It didn't seem over crowded, it was clean and it was quite obvious that not only was the coup well taken care of, so were the birds.
The farm had a number of heritage breed Large English Black Pigs on site, which will be heading to the abattoir in the next few weeks. Something I didn't realize was that most pigs will be large enough to slaughter by six months of age, if left much longer the meat will become too fatty. My husband and I are considering purchasing half of one of these pigs. I am excited about having the opportunity to use the whole animal, rather than just the favourable cuts.
We were then given the opportunity to meet Maggie, the farm's Draft horse. Although power operated tractors are used Maggie is used to plow, cultivate and to spread compost whenever possible.
Adrian explained to us that they have an irrigation pond and a well on the farm that they use as a water source, making the farm more self sustained. They also reuse the water from the produce wash station for irrigation rather than simply discarding it.
After a wonderful tour of the property we stopped by the Stocking family home. The house was made by Adrian himself and was built using straw bail walls. This clearly reflects the family's dedication to sustainability. Not only do they lead by example in the farming community, but in their own home as well.
Now as the busy season approaches Willo' Wind Farm will add an additional four people to their team from April through October. They will accept four apprentices through Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training in Ontario (C.R.A.F.T. Ontario). I imagine this would be a wonderful experience if you are interested in getting into farming. http://www.craftontario.ca/
The produce and meat that we have purchased from Willo' Wind Farm over the past few years has never faltered in quality. It lasts longer than anything we have ever purchased in the grocery store, tastes better and I am confident that it is more nutritious. The food from Willo' Wind Farm is something you can feel good about eating and feel confident in feeding your family, I know I am.
Check out their website for information on CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares or just for more information. http://willowind.ca/Welcome_to_WilloWind_Farm.html
Come out and visit the Uxbridge Farmers' Market this season and visit the Willo' Wind booth. http://www.uxbridgefarmersmarket.ca/