This is the story of a plum. A very tasty and juicy plum, named Stanley. These Stanley Plums are grown right here in Ontario, on a lovely farm in Virgil. And they are sold in that lovely farm’s own scrumptious market.
But they aren’t being sold anywhere else this year. Not from this farm at least. Because there’s no buyer for them. So, the farmers will sell their plums at their own market, alongside the best butter tarts you will ever eat. But they can’t sell them all. So those unsold plums will be turned into the soil. And at the end of this season, these particular trees will be removed.
Supply and demand, right? But, believe me, if you tasted these plums you would demand them. Makes me sad.
I tasted these delicious plums on a recent press trip with Farmers Feed Cities to Niagara on the Lake, where we visited the Pohorly family farm and their market, The Fruit Shack, followed by trip to the Southbrook Vineyards with lunch catered by the Yellow Pear “Farm to Truck” cuisine. It was a delicious and informative day that only served to intensify my support of our local farmers. I want to focus on the Pohorly farm today.
Apples, cherries, peaches, plums, grapes, corn, … there’s a lot of variety coming out of this farm. It was a pleasure to meet the people behind the products and to learn about their practices and challenges. We learned that a large portion of their peach crop also went to waste this year due to a lack of a market. And we learned part of the reason that honeycrisp apples are more expensive than other varieties – they do not do well with wind and have a greater tendency to fall off the trees, leading to more waste and less viable harvest.
I have always sung the praises of produce fresh from the garden – nothing tastes so good as my own vine-ripened tomatoes eaten within an hour or harvest. And sampling the apples and plums directly from the Pohorly trees really underlined that fact. The sooner after harvesting that you can get the food to your table, the fresher it is, the better is tastes, and the more nutritious it will be.
These are excellent arguments for buying local and supporting Ontario farmers. Of course the environmental costs of transporting produce across the country or continent need to be remembered, as is the importance to everyone of supporting the local economy. Of course, not everything can be sourced from our immediate area (anyone know how to grow a banana here?), but whenever I can, I make the choice to buy Ontario products over imported. My local Metro has been displaying signs all summer, highlighting the produce in the store that is from our Ontario farms, and this has been a great help. But you can also look at the packaging when you pick up that cello pack of berries and see if it says “Ontario” or not. And, if buying local is important to you, don’t be shy about asking your produce manager or general manager for locally-sourced produce and meat. Supply and demand, remember?
Meanwhile, if you’re in the Niagara area, be sure to stop in to The Fruit Shack market in Virgil. They are open year-round (check the website for details) and stock a variety or produce, preserves, meats and bakery items. You will be thrilled with the aromas when you enter, and blown away by their butter tarts. Be sure to try them!