Helping out at Soiled Reputation

9 Sep

Have you ever wondered how the yummy organic vegetables and greens at your favorite restaurants get to your plate?

As an Organic farmer, Antony John from Soiled Reputation grows about 50 varieties of vegetables on his 20 acre farm just outside of Stratford and he and his wife Tina have been doing this all for over 20 years! He grows everything from salad mixes to peppers and eggplant, but he also grows a few fruits like tomatoes, gooseberrys (in the tomato family) and cantalope. Antony gives many options of organic produce to everyone that wants them.

We started by doing a quick delivery just down the road to the de Martines Family who own Perth Pork Products. He was delivering a package that was heading to Niagara in Fred’s truck. They take turns driving each other’s products to the Niagara region since they live so close to each other and to share expenses.

When we got back, I got a tour of the farm. First, he showed me all of the flowers they have so the birds and the bees will come and pollinate their crops. We then walked into one of the green houses. Inside were various kinds of onions and garlic that were all laying in rows drying.

When we walked out of the greenhouse Jesus (pronounced Hey-zeus), their donkey, needed to be walked to a new patch of grass. Antony has four different kinds of grass planted all around the farm so Jesus can eat a variety of grasses.

We continued into the barn where two of his workers were washing some of the vegetables in a big basin. The organic salad mixes get washed inside the house both winter and summer. They get rinsed in a big sink, put into mesh bags and then go into a washing machine that is put on spin cycle (it’s like a big lettuce dryer!).

Behind the barn was their compost pile. I wasn’t expecting to see something so big! Both you and I  are used to a compost pile that might be a foot tall by a foot long but this one was taller than me and way longer than me. It was a sight to see.

After that, came the organic fields where Antony and Tina grow all their produce in the summer. Half the fields were filled with their produce and half of them were filled with wheat. They use wheat because it helps the soil. Every few years they switch the fields (crop rotation) around so the plants are where the wheat was and vice-versa. The only problem with using wheat is that, it is very hard to control without using pesticides. Instead of using pesticides on his wheat and other plants, he uses weeding equipment, a flame that burns the weeds before they come and he also weeds by hand.

Being so dry this season, Antony has had some troubles planting his crops (mostly salad crops). But of course he had some solutions. He didn’t plant until he knew for sure that some rain was coming, at one point this year he waited 4 weeks. He would also plant the seeds deeper and get all the beds ready to plant so that when the rain comes he can plant all the seeds quickly.

Something else that helps him grow his plants when its dry, is that he waters underground. Watering underground also helps save water. He has a pond that fills with rain water and all the water that drains down into it from the fields. Pipes are run off of the pond that go under the plants and every foot there is a little hole that lets out water. In Antony’s pond there are a bunch of fish that he and Tina catch and eat for supper somtimes. Yum!

When Antony is harvesting his crops, he just has to try some tomatoes here and there because they are his favourite! Another one of Antony’s favorite things that he grows are Padron chilis. They are like a hot pepper. The cool thing about them is that one in ten of them are super hot. Antony also grows organic corn on his farm.

On his corn, grows a special kind of fungus called ‘Corn Smut.’ You may think that sounds gross, but it is actually a delicacy in Mexico and starting to become that here as well. I tried a piece. It was surprisingly good, kind of like a sweet corn flavoured mushroom.

He also loves to go on the hunt for tomato caterpillars! They are also known as Tomato Hornworms. They are really bad for the tomatoes because they would eat the whole tomato plant if they got the chance. They are huge, fat and long, about the size of a grown man’s finger.

Finally, we loaded all of his produce that was going to the restaurants in Stratford into the truck and we went on deliveries on this day. We were just doing the Stratford deliveries, but in total he supplies about 25 other restaurants in Toronto, St. Marys, Niagara, Kitchener-Waterloo and Bayfield.

We first went to The Prune where I got to see all the chefs cooking away. In the winter, The Prune is one of the kitchens that the Stratford Chefs School cooks in. Then came Your Local Market Co-op where fresh produce was on all the shelves and tables. It is a great place to pick up all of your fruits and veggies! Mercer Hall came next. This is a beautiful new restaurant that used to be Tango. I can’t wait to eat there. Then we went to the upstairs and downstairs of Pazzo to deliver some fresh produce. Pazzo is one of my favorite spots to go to for pizza! Last was Rundles where I got a tour of the whole kitchen. It was so cool seeing the different parts of the kitchen!

I was sad that it was over because the experience was so great! I loved every moment of it and I learned many new things. But, I did take home some tomatoes, broccoli, onions and beans. Yum! They were so fresh. I could really tell they were grown with care. Thanks Antony and Tina for such a great experience!

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