“The quality of what is on your plate comes from decisions I made 2 years ago.” Bob Wilson of Gilbrea Farm
I’m delighted to announce that I will be working with Ontario Corn-Fed Beef this fall. To kick things off, I went on a very interesting farm tour with Ontario Corn-Fed Beef, the Grain Farmers of Ontario and a couple of other writers. We dubbed it the #BeefyTour and spent the day learning about Ontario Corn Fed Beef and the 500 farming families who put it on our table.
We did the tour from table-to-farm, a little backwards from how it is usually presented, but an interesting way to highlight that the decisions made all along the way culminate on the plate.
When you think about farm-to-table, many of the things that come to mind are the freezing-cold well water you use to wash the carrots just pulled out of the ground and the fragrant bunches of herbs you pluck from the sun-warmed soil. Okay, perhaps that’s just what I think of.
Actually, the part we the consumer are generally involved in is usually only the last little bit: buying, cooking, eating. But the travel from farm-to-table is more than a moment-in-time, or even a month-in-transit. The quote above is the reality of farming and the life of farmers. Farm-to-table starts with the decisions the farmers make around breeding stock, varieties and farming philosophies.
Gilbrea Farm is a breed-farm, and like most other beef farms in Ontario, it is a family-run business. Bob and his daughter Katie gave us a tour and introduced us to some of the cows and calves in their fields.
They discussed the innovations and traditional methods of breeding and selecting stock to produce the best beef cattle for consumption. There was no pretence here, no euphemistic distraction. This was straight talk about the realities of running a cattle farm from pastures to weather, from predators to insemination.
I grew up on an organic farm raising livestock for our table, in our case mainly sheep and chickens. I really enjoy listening to farmers talk about the pragmatic side of raising animals for consumption. The care and tending, the cool contraptions to ensure the cattle in the fields are protected from the elements, the differences in behaviour between the animals, and the respect they have for the animals in their care.
And, of course, it was great to see the calves playing and bounding around the fields. And to get up close and personal with the cows, who were very interested in who we were. (Bob didn’t make us stay in the cage for the whole tour but driving around in the hay cage did make it feel a bit like the cows were to see the exotic humans in the cage.)
They care for the cattle, make sure they are healthy and happy, but their goal is to breed cattle for health and quick growth with plenty of marbling in the meat. That is, after all, how the choices he makes show up in the quality on our plates 2 years later.
I will be sharing more posts sponsored by Ontario Corn-Fed Beef this fall and am really looking forward to it. I hope you will enjoy them.
You can find Ontario Corn Fed Beef is sold at Loblaws, Zehrs, Real Canadian Superstore, Independent and Valu-Mart stores and select independent butchers throughout Ontario.