Having the opportunity to directly connect with the growers and caretakers of our food is a unique benefit of my job. Even so, spending a day on the farm is a special treat. I recently had the opportunity to explore one of Simcoe County’s most successful organic farms: Cookstown Greens.
Cookstown Greens is a unique farm. First off, it’s an organic farm. While there are struggles associated with that, it means they are stewards of the land and ecosystem of Simcoe County. They use native insects, fire and crop rotation to ensure quality, quantity and sustainability — both eco and financial. Unlike most farms in the region, they also do their own packing and washing which gives them a leg up in the industry.
They grow over 100 different vegetables — including 15 unique varieties of potatoe like the Russian Banana and Purple Pelisse, plus carrots of every colour, onions, beets and loads of greens. They also have a number of green houses that are home to a dozen or so varieties of tomato.
They also work closely with their foodservice partners to grow custom crops and unique varietals. As an example, when Chef Albert Ponzo at Feast On Certified Le Select Bistro wanted over-wintered parsnips — they were happy to oblige. They left the hardy roots in the soil for the entire winter making them extra sweet.
“They are amazing. We use them for a purA�e with apples for a beef cheeks dish and we will use them simply roasted served with pressed and seared boudin noir” said Ponzo of his seasonally specific crop.
Catriona Ffrench, daughter of Caroline and Simon and sister of Mike & Vicky — it’s a family affair — says you don’t have to be a chef to make them taste good though! Like all their unique veggies, you can simply roast them in a pan with some oil and salt.
The Ffrench’s are also all about innovation and knowledge sharing. This year, they’re launching a new line of products called Cookstown Select — a brand under which they’ll work with other farmers in their area to grant access to retail space and build capacity for growing organically in Simcoe.
Seems like a tall task — doesn’t it? The Ffrench’s are confident though. They’re working with four farmers to up their organic growing game and meet the expectations of their GTA clientele. They share knowledge on pests, planting schedules and harvesting. Then they wash and package the goods for them, allowing those farmers to turn a higher margin. When the crop levels are low, they supplement with their homegrown produce to keep supply up.
It’s a simple idea, and one that should make a world of difference for the farmers of Simcoe County. We can’t wait to see it happen!
Looking for some of these famous Cookstown Carrots to call you own? Find them at the Evergreen Brick Works Farmers Market Saturdays & Sundays in Toronto — or at any of these better grocers.