In an urban environment it’s easy to detach from the where our food comes from. Many of us have never had to milk a cow, catch a squealing piglet or yank a clucky hen from her nest to gather eggs. Which is why farms like Mariposa Farm, who welcome the public Friday, Saturday and Sunday are so necessarily, and so very much fun.
Being new to the neighborhood, each new encounter comes with a sense of discovery and newness – even in the most familiar of places. Mariposa Farm, just 45 minutes outside Ottawa, and hour and 15 minutes from Montreal, is as familiar as the family farm.
Farming is an honest living, and an essential part of our food chain, but it’s not an easy life. I spent much of my youth mucking out barns, chasing cows and picking rocks. Perhaps it is this intimate knowledge of our food supply and how much effort goes into the simplest of ingredients, that fostered my deep respect for all things edible. Facts I was witness to from a very young age; milk does not come from a carton, eggs do not just appear in the supermarket and that slab of bacon was once a cute, pink pig.
The little person in our life is fortunate to have a community of raving food fanatics in the family, but outside educational programming and our efforts to reinforce, she has no concept of how our food goes from farm to table. There really is no substitute for tactile learning. The sights, sounds, textures, tastes and ummm… smells… of a farm make learning interesting, fun and real.
Mariposa is a working farm. Proprietors Ian Walker & Suzanne Lavoie supply quality duck, goose, pork and chicken, as well as greens from their hothouse to many local restaurants and as supply allows the visiting public. They also feed you lunch, once a week in their farm restaurant Sundays from 11AM – 1PM. Last weekend we loaded up our favorite three year old and headed out to Mariposa for a little family food education.
Spring has arrived dispite inclement weather, that never stops Mother Nature. Nowhere is spring more in evidence than in the country; the green haze over the bare fields, the sprouting of early crops in the garden and the tiny critters that bring new life, activity and joy to the cycle of life on the farm.
Mariposa Farm is positively crawling with new babies, tiny scrambling pigs in a far off pen with the sows band together and stampede in a small herd. It’s hard to count them, because they move so fast but Suzanne estimates they have between 35 and 40 piglets at the moment. In the barn you’ll see chicks, goslings and ducklings as well as the new pig named “Leo” soon to be introduced the herd.
Leo, will takeover his role as stud pig as soon as he’s big enough to face his adoring sows, but for the moment he’s loose in the barn making friends with the roaming geese, ducks and occasional escaped chicken.
You will likely find Suzanne & Ian busy with chores and farm maintenance. If you overstay your welcome you may find yourself at the end of a rake, paintbrush or hose. The greenhouse is busting with produce and there is always something to be done, fixed, repaired, watered, fed, corralled or fattened up.
We arrived in time to gather the eggs, a big thrill for the kiddo in her pink rubber boots. She watched entranced as Ian picked through the straw to find the eggs, one-by-one, in varying shades of brown and beige placing them gently into the waiting bucket. Both Ian & Suzanne are warm and kind, good with children and generous with their knowledge and experience. Just honest, hardworking folks, who make it easy to feel at home.
We wandered though gardens, snooped in the greenhouse, poked through the straw in search of eggs and when we were all filled up on fresh air and sunshine, we strolled over the the store/restaurant to peruse items on shelves, in fridges and freezers. After all, this is a producing farm.
From hand raised, confited duck legs, foie gras, magret, home smoked bacon, fresh eggs, preserves and a small line of boutique product from other quality local producers, you’re sure to find something that appeals.
In the restaurant we found Chef Mark Currier prepareing for the Sunday feast, rinsing greens, prepping meats, seasoning sauces. Back for another season in the kitchen at Mariposa Farm, Chef Currier’s Sunday lunch menu changes weekly.
Sunday’s Table d’hôte offers a choice of three entrees, three mains, two desserts and a cheese plate for $38/person and $20 for children under 12 (plus tax) There’s always a selection of Mariposa grown goose, duck & foie gras on offer, truly farm to fork cooking, with a view of the farm from every table. I look forward to coming back for lunch, the reputation of the kitchen is stellar and Chef B swears by Mariposa duck.
It’s worth noting that Mariposa Farm accepts cash and credit cards only, and if you always wanted your very own pet duck to take on long walks and swim in the bathtub (or fatten to have your own foie gras) ducklings are available for a short time.
Pick a weekend and get out of the city, take the kids, keep your distance from the protective mamma pigs and say hello to your friendly, neighborhood farmer.
After our visit, I asked our little farmer if she would like eggs for breakfast “YA!” was her surprise response (she’s the fussiest eater in the world). “How would you like them, scrambled?” “No, in a bucket!” OK, so we’re part way there.
Ian Walker & Suzanne Lavoie
6468 ch. comté / County Road 17
Plantagenet (Ontario) K0B 1L0 – CANADA
Telephone – (613) 673-5881