There's something very heart warming about a farmer who wears the love of his farm on the sleeve of his blue work shirt.. As our tour bus approached the lane to his farm, there was John Williams standing at the road, smiling and waving. I was struck by his obvious enthusiasm. It wasn't hard to see that he was eager to welcome us in and show off the wonderful things he had been doing and creating, in hopes that we would spread the word that real farmers still do exist and that their products are natural as they ever were and available to all who would want to come and see for themselves.
As a regular at the Barrie Farmer's Market, John is well practiced in setting up a nice display, so the first place he led us to was a table set out with goodies under a canopy. In the centre of this was a large tray of rustic bread triangles, each spread with a generous topping of farm made maple butter. As usual, I'm the odd person out as I do not like maple syrup (overdid it in childhood - long story), but all the oohs and ahs coming from the other writers told me all I needed to know - this stuff is delicious!
I think John would have enjoyed having us there all day. I feel like he is a deep well of agricultural knowledge and would have liked to share much more of it with us and most likely would have shown us around his field crops and sugar bush. He decided that the best use of our short time on his farm would be to bring us into the heart of his maple syrup business, the 1874 barn. John loves that barn. I understand that because I love old barns too. There's something special and thought provoking about a structure made 140 years ago, by men born some 170 years ago from stone, and from timbers of trees that were seedlings in the 1700s - if those barns could talk!
Williams Farm has 2,700 taps on maple trees in the area. This year, they produced 3,330 litres of the sweet stuff! All of the sap has to be brought into the barn, at a faster and faster pace as the season goes on, to be put into the huge stainless steel, wood fired evaporator. John has been involved in the making of maple syrup since he was 13 years old. Hmmm, I wonder if he still likes maple syrup himself? I should have asked.
John is not a one trick pony. I would be doing Williams Farm a disservice if I neglected to mention their other wonderful organic products. Last year, they brought from the earth 20,000 lbs. of carrots, 36,000 heads of garlic, 5,000 lbs. of beets and a half ton of salad greens. Everyone is welcome to take a drive out to the farm and have a look. This is stop number 2 on the Huronia Food Trail, and John and his family would be really pleased to have you stop in and see them from 10 - 5 on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Some of their bottled products are available all the time in their little mini shop in front of the house. There's even an old fashioned honour jar where you can drop your payment if no one is home.
Our parting gift was a big bag of garlic scapes. Have you heard of those? No, neither had I. I learned that they are the flowering bud of the garlic plant. They must be cut off to allow the garlic bulb to grow strong, but the side bonus is that the scapes are mildly garlicky themselves and make a great addition to stir frys and omelettes. Someone in the group said they liked them in fried potatoes. I made a pot of leek and potato soup when I got home and popped some scapes in, with excellent results. I am now inspired to try my hand at growing garlic myself. That will have to wait until the fall, because like tulips, they go into the ground late in the year and are not enjoyed until much later - August, in the case of garlic.
Check out Williams Farm at 2193 Wood Rd., just south of Midland. Call John at (705)818-8036 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org