Guest blogger Jessica Wynne Lockhart is a Contributing Editor for Verge Magazine, a publication devoted to travel with purpose, and the promotions manager for the Go Global Expos. A Toronto-based freelance journalist, she has travelled to over 30 countries, but never says no to a road trip that’s closer to home.
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On the first day that can truly be called winter, the lineup inside Midland’s downtown food shop, Ciboulette et Cie is surprisingly long. Despite the blowing snow outside, it’s snaking its way from the back freezers stocked with take-home soups, past a reclaimed wooden table and up to the front counter, where customers are eagerly waiting for hot coffee to accompany slices of cake.
The short wait is well worth it—Ciboulette et Cie is one of the 14 vendors that visitors can eat at on the newly formed Huronia Food Trail. An initiative of the Simcoe County Farm Fresh Marketing Association, the food trail launched in July 2013 to promote local food along Georgian Bay in the townships of Midland, Penetanguishene, Tay and Tiny. (Fun fact: The latter of two townships, along with the Township of Flos, were named for the lapdogs of Lady Sarah Maitland, wife of the Governor of Upper Canada in 1822.)
Although the trail is really at its peak during the summer months – when visitors can sample foods directly from the farms in the area – I’ve decided to visit in blustery November with two friends in tow. Even though most of the farms are closed to visitors for the season, my friend Martha Harris has offered to show us around the area.
“The whole thing that ties this trail together is local food—and not just seasonally, but year-round,” Martha tells me over lunch at Ciboulette et Cie. (I order the red pepper asiago quiche, followed by a homemade chocolate-covered vanilla bean marshmallow).
Martha’s farm, the Harris Family Farm, is the perfect example of this. After lunch, we take a tour of the property and a moment to cuddle with the latest litter of French Lop bunnies. Located on Brunelle Side Road (which is named for Martha’s French Canadian grandmother—the area was settled in the 1800s by Quebecois families who were attracted to the area’s farmland), the Harris Farm focuses on raising Katahdin lamb, seasonal produce and maple syrup. It’s just one of the farms on the trail that is open to the public during the summer months. (Although they may not participate in the Huronia Food Trail in 2014, their products can be found along the trail, including at Ciboulette et Cie, where their maple syrup is available for purchased.)
The drive isn’t just about eating—it’s about getting to know local farmers and producers, and it’s this sense of community that’s the strength of the Huronia area. “It’s a really relaxed, scenic drive and it’s really self-directed,” says Sandra Trainor Cull, Executive Director of the Simcoe County Farm Fresh Marketing Association. “You don’t have to experience it all in one day or one visit.”
For visitors who want to stay for several days, there’s a number of bed and breakfasts and accommodations providers participating in the trail. At Sugar Ridge scrapbooks stacked near the yoga retreat’s fireplace are filled with comments from guests about the experience of getting away from the city—and more notably, about the food.
“When people are here we’re serving them locally-grown and organic produce as much as we possibly can,” explains owner Liz Frost. “When people come here, they’re really immersed in stepping away. I think it’s a very natural, down-to-earth kind of pace.”
For more information about planning your visit to the Bruce Grey Simcoe region visit us here.