Julie Ann Bertram
Special to the Tribune
One of the beautiful things about living in West Nipissing is the meandering roads and lush forests dotted with homesteads and farms. This summer, every Sunday, residents and visitors can enjoy a tour of several area farms and partake in their bounty.
The tour, called the SEWN (Sudbury East/West Nipissing) Farm Stand Tour, is a collaborative effort with 25 local farms and homesteads welcoming the public and offering locally grown food and homemade goodies. A map showing the participating farms is available, and you can see what’s provided at the farms weekly on the SEWN Farm Stand Tour page on Facebook.
In 2022, Andrea Walsh of Walsh Forest Farms in Warren had a bonfire with a few farmers from Field, Verner, Warren, and St. Charles. It was a social meeting where they talked about the similar troubles they’ve had with shipping, getting stuff to Northern Ontario, and getting customers to their farms. There had been prior talk about a farm stand tour, and in January 2023, they held their first meeting with organizers of the Powassan farm tour who helped them understand what they do, how they started, and how they alert the public about what’s available.
“We thought it would be really good to get as many farms as possible involved, communicating and collaborating, and getting people to show up at our doors. We ended up with way more farms than we thought; there were about 28 farms, a few have dropped off since then, so we now have 25 farms. That number of farms means there’s more available. If somebody comes here from Sudbury or North Bay, traveling through, there are lots of places to stop with many different products, a really nice range, from meats and vegetables and flowers to maple syrup and eggs, honey, jams, jellies, a little bit of everything. For me, it’s been amazing because I’ve gotten to know a few other farmers in the area, which makes things easier because I already know who has what and can send people their way. That’s been really beneficial,” enthuses Walsh.
One of the organizers, Tara Hamilton (La Belle Vie Farm), reached out to Economic Partners Sudbury East-West Nipissing Inc. and secured a $1,000 grant. Economic Partners is a Community Futures Development Corporation funded by FedNor, dedicated to creating opportunities for entrepreneurship and economic growth in our community. “That grant was really helpful; we were able to print signs for each farm on the tour and make laminated maps to hand out,” she explains.
Danika Binette of Ferme la Binette near Verner enjoys being part of the tour. “When I heard that a group of farms were organizing a farmstand tour (…), I knew I wanted to join. This tour is a great way for people to learn about what is available right here in our community.” Ferme la Binette provides a variety of GMO-free and pastured meats as well as eggs and vegetables. Binette says the tour has had a good start. “I expect to see more and more people visit the farm as they become aware of the tour. I’ve had many good conversations with people about the tour and there is a lot of interest in this project.”
The SEWN Farm Stand Tour will be continuing throughout the summer and into the fall, with farms participating as long as they have products available. “In the beginning, we had a soft launch where only a few farms had available products, and then our grand opening was on the first Sunday of June with all the farms participating. As it gains traction, we’ll really see it grow and have something people can count on for their shopping,” Walsh notes. Most farms are open to being contacted for products during other days of the week as well.
The farmer collaborative aims to continue this project into the foreseeable future. “There’s a discussion happening now, asking for suggestions on improvements, like signage on Highway 17, so we’re taking all that in for next year, adding new things to our agenda. The people involved have been contributing skills, time, and whatever they’re able to; we’re all very proud of what’s been accomplished so far,” Walsh concludes.
Indeed, with so much accomplished, all that’s left to do this season is enjoy the fruits of their labour.