Local Farmers are putting their families first when it comes to food but we can all benefit from their bounty.
By Natasha Borutski
“It started with our commitment to give our girls healthy, pesticide-free foods and our passion and drive to provide that same care in food for our community” says Crystal Stone-Simms owner of Family Friendly Fungi by The Kitchen Garden Farm.
Simms, who was born and raised in Orillia, is a first-generation farmer however she picked up the entrepreneurial spirit from her parents at an early age. “Working for my parents businesses I learned about all aspects from labour to marketing and everything in between and I knew I would own my own business one day”. Simms started farming with her husband as a way to bring healthy, organic foods to their two girls; it also provided a much needed mental health break from their previous careers. Now, the two run independent farming operations aimed at providing healthy food to their local communities.
Crystal started Family Friendly Fungi by The Kitchen Garden Farm after learning of the many health benefits of mushrooms and gaining an interest from local chef’s to include local organic gourmet mushrooms on their menus. Crystal is so busy in fact that she delivers freshly grown and harvested mushrooms from Barrie to Gravenhurst and everywhere in between for restaurants, small grocery stores, farm csa box programs, special events and home delivery customers. “I’m thrilled that the business is growing but I’m also so proud to be a female farmer, working with and learning from amazing mentors in this industry and being able to share this experience of growing wholesome good food with my girls. We’re changing the narrative of what a typical farmer looks like”.
Family farming has allowed Crystal to connect with like-minded farmers in the area who are all working in connection with each other to provide local restaurants, retailers and community members with a robust menu of fresh foods straight from the farmer. Greg Simms, Shannon O’Donnell, Alana Kramarchuck and Lauren McEachern are also local farmers who took to the agricultural industry in support of their families.
Local farmer Greg Simms, who happens to be Crystal’s husband, understands the importance of farming for family. Before starting his farming journey, Greg worked as a local firefighter for many years, but the job kept Greg away from his family for long hours and the work was taking a toll on his mental health. Ready to make a change from that lifestyle, Greg took an active interest in organic farming. This allowed him to spend more time with his family, even getting his wife and children involved. The family hobby soon turned into a family business, The Kitchen Garden Farm. Renting land from local farmers allowed the family to provide the community with a variety of fresh, organic veggies delivered locally through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes and later being hired as a Farm Consultant for the Rama First Nation Community Farm.
Greg’s need to make a change for his family has benefited many in the community from his food box delivery programs, growing for local restaurants, grocery stores and events as well as food education and mentorship around organic farming.
Shannon and her husband run “The Roost” farm and sugar shack in Dalrymple and it’s a true family affair. Shannon’s husband Matt is a third-generation farmer and the two purchased his family’s maple syrup farm in 2016. Together with their three kids and with help from willing family and friends, Shannon and Matt produce 900 litres of maple syrup along with farm fresh eggs, pork, poultry, organic produce and more. With over 190 acres the family also uses the farm as a giant outdoor playground, something Shannon and Matt appreciate being able to give their family having grown up as outdoor enthusiasts.
Organic farmer Alana Kramarchuk runs Earth Valley Organics but says she’s a mom first. Her journey to organic farming began with her son. Following a reaction to medication Alana’s son started suffering from a multitude of food and environmental sensitivities. This health concern led Alana to learn more about the benefits of organic, non-toxic foods and propelled her pursuit of organic farming. “As an organic farmer I am the voice for safe food” says Alana who produces commercial herb and medicinal plants for her local community and companies such as St. Francis Herb Farm and LUSH Manufacturing. “On my farm I’m committed to enhancing the health of the land and in turn, the health of the people who eat the food I grow.”
The Fifty Acre Garden was started in 2017 by father-daughter team Robert Cutler and Lauren McEachern. The pair enjoyed a hobby farm when Lauren was younger and always joked about one day running a full farm together, but it was a series of unfortunate events that put family matters first and saw that Lauren and Robert fulfill their farming dream. While living in Fort McMurray, Alberta with her son and husband, Lauren and her family were forced to evacuate their home after a particularly devastating forest fire season. In that same week Robert was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma. Lauren made the decision to permanently move her family back to Ontario and when Robert completed his treatments and went into remission (he still is), the two set out to pursue the farm. It’s more than a hobby now; The Fifty Acre Garden features locally grown vegetables, herbs, teas, and fresh-cut flowers using only organic approved methods, and never harmful pesticides or herbicides.
Although the farming industry presents many challenges, the decision for these local farmers to put family first was worth the risk. Now their local communities can also benefit from their conscious efforts. Family Friendly Fungi by The Kitchen Garden Farm, The Roost, Earth Valley Organics and The Fifty Acre Farm are local farms from Washago, Brechin and Oro Medonte and their family-friendly harvest is available for purchase. Check out their contact information below to support local farming, the families they farm for and to start your own healthy living journey.
Family Friendly Fungi and The Kitchen Garden Farm: F: @TheKitchenGardenFarm
The Roost: RoostFarm.ca F: @Roostfarm
Earth Valley Organics: F: @EarthValleyOrganics
The Fifty Acre Farm: thefiftyacregarden.com @thefiftyacregarden