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Rural Awareness Day promotes local farms in South Frontenacby Julie Druker
Photo: Orrie, Andrea and Charlie Cumpson with Hailey Conium and their organic dairy herd at Sonset Farm in Inverary
On July 15, members of the 4H and Rotary clubs of Frontenac joined forces with the owners of three rural farms in South Frontenac to promote urban awareness of farms and the bounty they produce.
Darlene Clement, a 4H leader and Rotarian, along with Jim Perry, chair of the Kingston Rotary Club, helped organize the first-time event, which was held in memory of Larry Ritchie, a long time Rotarian who strongly believed in the importance of supporting and promoting rural farming and farmers.
Over 100 interested persons participated in the all-day event, which included tours of the Cumpson family’s 750 acre Sonset Farm in Inverary, the Bennetts’ Benacres Farm, a 1000 plus sheep farm on Latimer Road, and the recently opened Limestone Organic Creamery on Sydenham Road, owned by the Groenewegen family.
At Sonset Farm visitors were invited to enjoy a sumptuous, free lunch with 100% beef burgers donated by the Frontenac Cattlemen’s Association plus numerous salads, and other snacks made from local farm ingredients and produce, and countless homemade pies in every imaginable flavor.
I joined the tour at Sonset Farm, where co-owner Andrea Cumpson was just beginning one of many hay wagon tours of the 750-acre property. Numerous visitors jumped aboard as Andrea’s husband Orrie drove the tractor while she pointed out the ripening fields of spelt, barley, oats, hay, wheat and corn, the majority of which goes toward feeding their 40-head herd of organic dairy cows, whose milk is sold to Organic Meadow. Their crops also feed their grass-fed beef cattle, and pastured pigs and chickens.
Andrea pointed out two of the farm’s large market gardens and greenhouses where she, her husband Orrie and son Charlie produce market veggies and sell them through Community Shared Agriculture shares to close to 40 regular customers.
Beside their home is their farm gate store where they sell their meat, eggs, spelt flour (which is milled on site), and seasonal veggies. The store also contains a plethora of educational materials about the importance of local food and local organic farming, something that Andrea and her family naturally feel very strongly about.
Andrea has been on the family farm for 29 years and she and Orrie farm it along with their son Charlie and his partner Hailey Conium. The farm has been certified organic since 1996 and is a great example of farming that strives to preserve diversity while maintaining the health of the land, the soil, the crops, the animals and the people they feed. Naturally the Cumpsons jumped at the opportunity to educate the public about the importance of supporting local rural agriculture and local food, and were pleased to be able to offer the public a close look into how such a farm works. “It's just so important that people are connected to where their food comes from, “ Andrea said in between her tours. “Every region needs to feed themselves and has the capacity to feed themselves. We just need more farmers and processors to be able to do it and it’s important for people to see how it all works and exactly what is needed to be able to do it.”
She beamed with pride when showing us her dairy herd, who roamed and grazed happily in a field just beyond the barn where they are milked twice daily and where the stalls were just recently prepared with fresh bedding, all grown in the fields just beyond the fence line.
“Letting animals live in as natural a state as possible- where they can socialize, get fresh air, sunshine, and freely graze is what makes a healthy animal. I feel that here on this farm it is my job to tell people what happens here, show them how it works and let them come to their own conclusions. I really believe that all animals need to have the opportunity to be who and what they are. And I am hoping that when people come here they see these healthy, happy animals, the vibrant nourishing crops, the biodiversity of this region and how important it is to preserve that biodiversity.”
Also attending the event were the Perry family of Local Family Farms in Verona and Perry Maine-Anjou Farms in Harrowsmith, who had on display their award-winning bull calf. The calf was born in January 2012 and was awarded the title of grand champion of all breeds at the Odessa Fair on July 14. It was sired by a Denver Colorado champion from semen sent from Alberta to the Perry farm in Harrowsmith. The calf will be on display again at the upcoming Napanee Fair on the August long weekend.
Anyone interested in supporting local farmers throughout the Frontenacs should get a copy of the National Farmers Union's “Food Down the Road”, which has a listing of local producers in the area. The yellow brochure, Hands on Harvest is also a great guide to farmers further north.