Stormont 4-H volunteers, from left, Glenn Goodman, Claudia Goodman and Kenda Teplate loaded up the strawberries on the Ontario-made ice cream at Avonmore Berry Farm on Sun., July 9, during the Strawberry Sunday/e event. Sawyer Helmer photo
Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
AVONMORE – On Sun., July 9, Avonmore Berry Farm and Kennmatten Farm banded together to host the first-ever Strawberry Sunday/e event. Inspired by the Breakfast on the Farm event held at Stanlee Farms in 2014, Strawberry Sunday/e opened the doors of two farms to the public to enjoy local Ontario products and learn more about Canadian Agriculture.
Stanlee Farms owner Jim Wert began planning the event but gives the majority of the credit for the event’s success to Avonmore Berry Farm owners David and Pamela Phillips and Kennmatten Farm owners Thomas and Katherin Speck.
Katherin Speck explained the theme was developed as they, “wanted something less complicated and costly [than the Breakfast on the Farm] but still exciting.” Partnering with Avonmore Berry Farm meant visitors had the opportunity to not just experience where their dairy products come from but also local produce.
The event is all about education and connecting with the non-agricultural community to promote local products and understanding average farming practices. “We want people to see that we are good to our animals. We treat them well, they are happy and have a clean home. We’d like to demolish the negativity that surrounds the dairy industry,” said Speck.
The transparency offered by the Specks was well received. Thomas and Katherin were both eager and willing to answer any and all questions that the visitors had during the day. Katherin Speck explained that it was important to realize that Kennmatten is not an anomaly of the dairy industry but their practice is an “average Canadian dairy farm.”
Visitors Karen Westcott and husband Paul Lacoursiere live in Finch and pass Kennmatten Farm daily. They saw the signs advertising the event and were eager to attend. They were accompanied by Lacoursiere’s sister, Michele Barter and her family from Alberta. “There can sometimes be bad press [surrounding agriculture]. Most people want to know that things are being done ethically and educating people on the treatment of animals is important,” said Westcott. She continued that the event encourages the use of local products and is therefore a “win/win for the community.”
While Kennmatten Farm provided Ontario milk and curds for the guests, the actual strawberry sundaes were on sale at Avonmore Berry Farm just a short drive away. The berries were provided by the farm while the ice cream was the Kawartha brand, an Ontario favourite. Wert estimated 1,500 plus people attended the event and enjoyed the day. “It’s a great opportunity to actually talk to farmers. We focused our attention on urban concentration and held campaigns in Ottawa and Cornwall to promote the event,” said Wert.
Avonmore Berry Farm had live music from the McDonald Brothers and some highland dance exhibitions. This was combined with an optional walking tour to seven stations set up throughout the farm’s crops. David Phillips explained that it was a surprise for visitors to realize just how many different crops the farm produces. The tour also gave attendees the chance to have a more hands-on experience with the crops.
The Phillips’ are regularly involved in educational events, holding the Farm to Table series which had three dinners in 2016 and will host another three this summer. “We want people to know how their food is grown. It’s all about education,” explained Phillips.
Admission was free but sundaes were free only to children under 12, with a minimal cost of $5 for others. Approximately 650 sundaes were sold and money raised will go to the Stormont and Glengarry 4-H Clubs and Junior Farmers. The event was a great success and a good step in the right direction for bridging the gap between agriculture producers and their consumers. It was all possible because of the many volunteers from the local agricultural groups, as well as the commitment to education and willingness from the farms involved.