5 posts tagged with “Niagara-on-the-Lake”

  • This Niagara nut farmer has heart

    My column, Eating Niagara, runs every second Wednesday in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

    It’s a sight that makes Linda Grimo smile every time she sees it.

    There, at the corner of Line 8 and Concession 7 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, is a sign that reads “Walnuts, Heartnuts, Fresh Eggs for Sale,” beckoning passersby to Dave White’s nearby farm.

    Grimo loves it not only because the trees on White’s sprawling acreage came from her family’s nut nursery on Lakeshore Road but because the man tending to them “sees the value of the crop.”

    White hasn’t spent his life farming to hone such instincts, however. In fact, he never likened himself a grower of anything despite having it in his blood. His family raised cattle and grew potatoes in Midland but he opted for a career in emergency response cleaning in Niagara.

    He has, however, always dreamed of living in the country. So three years ago, when a modern bungalow in a bucolic setting went on the market, he and his “city slicker” wife, Tracey, did something his friends told him was plain nutty.

    They bought their dream house with 180 heartnut and black walnut trees in the backyard. They added chickens on a lark. Sales of eggs and nuts at the farm gate have been brisk ever since.

    Read the rest of the story

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    Category Food Finds, On the Farm

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  • Peach Tree
  • Food truck food fight: B-sides from a reporter’s notebook

    If people glean anything from this blog, I hope it’s my love for Niagara.

    A good friend once told me I have an amazing ability to fall in love with wherever I live. I’ve had serious relationships with eight cities in three provinces in my 36 years. That’s a lot of love and, at times, a fair share of heartache.

    Niagara is no different. I am enamoured with this place, a stunning beauty with incredible potential and much already accomplished. But after more than eight years together, we’ve reached a comfort level where we’re not always on our best behaviour and our flaws are more apparent.

    If you asked Niagara, I’m sure it would say I still gush a little too much about Saskatchewan, one of those three provinces I once called home.

    If you asked me, it’s that sometimes the Region of Niagara is the Region of No.

    In my time here, first as a passive observer, reporting for a local daily newspaper, and now as a more active participant, it often feels as though when new ideas come along, our reflex is to say no without giving much thought to the good that could come from a simple, well-considered yes.
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    Category Food Finds

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  • Peach Tree
  • NiAGara Farm Heroes and Agvocates: Lauren O’Malley Norris, Market Manager

    Look out, Lauren O’Malley Norris is on a mission.

    And it’s not just the clipboard in her hand as she makes the rounds at the Farmers Market at the Village on a recent Saturday morning that should tip you off.

    O’Malley Norris, the newly anointed manager for the Niagara-on-the-Lake farmers market, has big plans for this little market — one that she shopped at regularly until she took over the reins to run it earlier this year.

    Of course there are farmers, as many as O’Malley Norris can fit under cover of the white tents staked into a field wedged comfortably between the suburbia of strip mall and the pastoral beauty of a vineyard. And everything they sell will be harvested from Niagara.

    But there are also artisans — sock monkey wine bottle cosy, anyone? — those proffering prepared food, including Willow Cakes and Pastries, Market Chef Mark Walpole, food truck the Tide and Vine serving up freshly shucked oysters and live music.

    And there’s more. A community garden is taking shape at the market. Zumba classes, co-working sessions, running group meet-ups, yoga and vendor-led workshops are in the works to make this a market for the masses or at the very least, one with as strong a sense of community as the historic town in which it’s located.

    A smaller dinnertime edition of the market on Wednesday evenings, starting June 20, will complement the main Saturday market and feature more prepared foods, including the gourmet fare of St. Catharines food truck El Gastronomo Vagabundo.

    Farmers markets with just farmers are “one kind of farmers market and it has its place,” O’Malley Norris said. “In our community, if we just had farmers, there are people who wouldn’t come. To bring people to the farmers, you sometimes had to have other lures to bring them in.

    “I really want to create a mood, an event, something special.”

    For O’Malley Norris, though, her favourite part of any market is the farmers themselves. Growing up in Toronto, she was a regular with her mother at the north market of the St. Lawrence Market,  used by farmers to sell their wares.

    “She loved knowing the … guy with the chickens who gave her her eggs,” she said.

    So does O’Malley Norris. That passion for market shopping was a passed on to her and O’Malley Norris has made a point of shopping at farmers markets in Niagara since she moved here from Toronto 10 years ago. She has also made the weekly jaunt to the Niagara-on-the-Lake edition since it opened in 2007.

    Getting local food into the bellies of others has also been a passion. O’Malley Norris volunteered with the Niagara Local Food Co-op to help promote that virtual farmers market when it launched around the same time and she helped get the Good Food Fair in Beamsville up and running two years ago.

    “I have been an avid, avid attender of farmers markets. I’m there rain, shine or windstorm,” she said.

    It was her regular appearances at Niagara-on-the-Lake that made her an easy pick when the market was in need of a new manager. Recommended by Beth Smith of Ridge Meadow Farms and Rose Bartel of Bartel Organics, O’Malley Norris, a graphic designer by training, didn’t hesitate when offered the job.


    “I just jumped up and down. I was honoured,” she said. “It brings together everything important to me: local food, the people growing local food, the land, the artisans and artists around us, too.”

    The job was only meant to be part-time, but driven to make the most of a market brimming with potential, O’Malley Norris has been clocking full-time hours in pursuit of more farmers, musicians, community groups and artists who could make the Farmers Market at the Village “irresistible to everyone.”

    Her dream market is one with primarily organic producers complemented by artists and prepared food vendors. Right now, about half the vendors in Niagara-on-the-Lake are farmers but they’re all from small farms with diverse offerings.
    Not only do they have a wide variety of produce for shoppers, the also have O’Malley Norris’s respect.
    “There’s a grace, the earthiness, the rootedness and that letting go attitude with what they do,” she explained. “Small growers are diversified so they can roll with the punches. I love that small farmer attitude.”
    O’Malley Norris is also working hard to create a family atmosphere at the market — she refers to the vendors as her brood — one that she hopes will spill into the larger community and help that market grow with consumers, too.

    “I really hope that people who haven’t come to the market come,” she said. “I love the idea of bringing new people into this.”

    Catch the Farmers Market at the Village Saturdays until the fall from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesdays for 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. starting June 20.

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  • Peach Tree
  • Stepping up Chive Walk

    Guerrilla gardeners gather to plant the rest of Chive Walk in Niagara-on-the-Lake Monday.

    I braced myself for the worst when he sidled up to his fence to ask us what we were doing.

    Bad things were bound to happen, I figured as I stood on the sidewalk leading up to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Community Centre last night. Persistent, pressing questions. Annoyance at our answers. Possibly even anger.
    After all, we were engaging in guerrilla gardening in a strip of dirt abutting this man’s yard, partaking in the unsanctioned planting of chives on town property. It was all in an effort to beautify Niagara-on-the-Lake and make it more edible. And by that, I mean growing food in public spaces that anyone can harvest.

    Chive Walk

    But how would a resident of the “prettiest town in Canada,” with its stately homes and manicured lawns, feel about such civil disobedience, even if we thought it only contributed to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s reputation for being so aesthetically pleasing.
    I held my breath as someone in our small but mighty group of six guerrilla greenthumbs piped up with an answer.
    “We’re planting chives,” she said.
    “Oh. That’ll smell great,” the man replied, a smile spreading across his face.
    “Chives — they go really well with potatoes,” he added.
    I took that as an endorsement of our efforts to plant hundreds of the perennial allium along the freshly paved walkway on Anderson Lane.
    It was a project started earlier this month by town resident Melissa Hellwig. I tagged along to help and we got a fair stretch of the garlicky spikes planted. But we had a whole other side of the walk to line with the edible greenery.
    Our earlier plantings didn’t appear to be faring too well, what with no rain to help them along and what appeared to be a date with a weed whacker. They looked pathetic but also determined to withstand the whipper snipper, some green shoots still evident.
    This time, though, we had four others join us in our efforts of getting the chives into the ground. They were tenacious, not wanting to leave until every last bit of dirt was home to some herbs, and they made Chive Walk official. 
    And soon, someone will be eating the fruits of our labour with potatoes. 
    I bet they’ll be delicious. 

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