Nice Seeing You, Norfolk County!

There is no better time than July to visit Norfolk County, and there is no better place than Norfolk County to visit in July.  We had the chance to take a road trip through the area and soak in all that this beautiful southern coast of Ontario has to offer. 

Our main incentive was to attend and exhibit at Canada’s Fruit and Vegetable Tech X-Change, the second annual jamboree for growers and industry supporters to swap information about the horticultural landscape in Canada.  But there was lots of time to tour and play, and reflect on how lucky we are that this is our job.

The Tech X-Change was an impressive sight; a vast sprawl of booths and tractors, flanked on one side by the fields of Blueberry Hill Estates and by test plots of crops like beets, sunflowers, and zucchini on the other.  We managed to sneak away from our booth a few times to see some of the excellent speakers, which included Evan Elford of OMAFRA introducing the burgeoning hops growing industry in Ontario; Martin Hodgson of Butternut Farms talking about good news for Ontario hazelnuts; and Dr. John Cranfield from the University of Guelph discussing the growing demand for local world crops (yay!).   Then there was, of course, the global launch of the farming robots, Prospero and Aquarius.  We got to talk to some terrific people, including a happy Alan Cowan from Arranhill Garlic Farm who connected with Joanne Sable of Bumpercropon and exchanged a whack load of garlic scapes!   We love playing matchmaker. 

Our conversations at the show opened our eyes to some other goings-on in the area that we couldn’t miss.  So we scheduled a quick detour for ourselves.

We drove east to the area around Simcoe Ontario and stopped in at Villa Nova Estate Vineyard and Winery for their open house.  Norfolk County is gradually becoming established as Ontario’s newest wine region, with many grape growers and wine producers featured through South Coast Wineries (also including Burning Kiln Winery, the host of our Tech X-Change welcome dinner).  They had a guest displaying with them – Bains Road Cider Company was sampling their Black Currant Port and Strawberry Rhubarb Cider.  We talked to both companies about and they’re both excited the service exists to help them expand.  It’s a win-win; we would love to be able to taste all their delicious products all across Ontario!

We then swung north and a bit east to Bonnieheath Lavender where they were in the final weekend of their Lavender Festival.  We browsed their on-site store to the luscious tones of a harpist, swathed in the aromas of the farm.  We had a lovely chat with owner Anita Buehner about their distiller, culinary uses for lavender, and the farm’s new layout.  We couldn’t leave without some lavender earl gray tea hydrosol, and lemongrass lavender soap.

Growing everything from wine grapes and lavender, to hops and hazelnuts, to ginseng and your usual salad suspects, Norfolk County really is a wealth of diversity. 

- Madeline Ritchie, Program Assistant