The farm-to-table food movement continues to be popular in Northern Ontario.
Even throughout the pandemic, farmers have been providing locally grown and raised food in the Timmins area. Acres of Dreams is one of the operations that continues to find innovative ways to bring farm-fresh food to local tables.
Since 2013, Harold and Patsy Schmidt have owned and operated Acres of Dreams. The family-run farm offers beef, chicken, pork, turkey and eggs. Over the last couple of years, they have expanded their fresh selections to include honey and vegetables.
“My son (Joshua) takes care of the honey,” Patsy said. “Currently, he has 15 hives. He’ll be extracting honey soon. It’s pretty exciting to see the bees and how you manipulate the hives and where the honey comes from.
“This year, we decided we were going to tackle a garden because we didn’t have enough stuff to do,” she added, with a chuckle. “So, we planted zucchinis, cauliflower, cabbage, beans, peas, garlic, peppers and we did some carrots too.
“We’ve been pulling a little bit out of there, but because gardening is lower on our list of priorities to do, it kind of falls by the wayside. If something’s gotta give, that’s where it’s going to give.
“We’re replanting the remainder of the garlic for next year.”
They also used it to make garlic butter that is sold on the farm and at local markets.
Acres of Dreams participates in the Mountjoy Farmers' Market, Downtown Timmins Urban Park, and markets in Cochrane and Kirkland Lake.
“I go to Chapleau every two weeks,” Schmidt said. “We’ve been going to Chapleau since last October, and we’ve been very well received.”
For meat, there is a wide selection of products and cuts available. For pork, this includes smoked bacon, smoked ham, ribs, chops, roasts, sausages, ground pork, tenderloin roast, pepperettes, kielbasa chabis, pizza pepperoni, summer sausage and cheesy wieners. Beef cuts include ground beef, stew meat, T-bone, rib and sirloin steaks, rump roast, prime rib roast, premade burger patties, and tenderloin roast.
“We sell corn dogs at the Urban Park,” she said. “My son does that too.
“It was too much work to lug the barbecue back and forth. The corn dogs are something smaller scale to pack up and move around. We also sell the waffles and sausage on a stick at Mountjoy.”
The pandemic has impacted product availability at times
“The impact we’ve felt most from COVID is when we shipped our hogs,” Schmidt said. “We’d ship our hogs south to Ontario Pork. Because of COVID in the plants, and they were shutting down plants, we had the inability to ship pigs.
“So, we were told to hold them back. And we’ve done everything we can to hold them back. You can’t stop animals from feeding, so we lowered the amount of protein in their feed to try to slow that growth rate. That’s where the bottleneck happened for us. That’s where we felt the most impact.”
At times when there aren’t farmers’ markets to go to, they host their own right on the farm.
“We started an on-the-farm market here,” she said. “The first year of COVID, we started it in May and had great success. This year, because the weather was so nice early, we started it in March. We added a soap vendor, and our friends at Sunrise Orchards and Produce came with their fruits and veggies.”
They continue to advocate the health benefits of eating locally raised food.
“You know where it comes from,” Schmidt said. “It has travelled less miles. It tastes great. And no additives.
“I haven’t eaten meat from a grocery store, not knowingly, in some time.”
Acres of Dreams is located at 1156 Mahoney Rd. in Timmins and can be reached at 705-365-7485.