For the Hug A Farmer blog a group of friends and I decided to head to the Hamilton Farmers Market, which has been around for over 160 years. The reason why we decided to go to this farmers market is simply because it’s one of the few that are open year round that have local farmers. Not many farmers market are actually open past October since they have outdoor venues usually.
There are a few farmers who sell their products at the Hamilton Farmers Market but the one who stood out the most was from Buttrum’s Family Farm. Shea who was manning the stand provide us with some back round information about the farm. The Buttrum family has been coming to sell their produce at this farmers market since the 1880’s and growing for over 160 years which is 7 generations. The father is running the farm currently and he is in his 70’s so the son, Gary Buttrum has come back and taken over for him now. During the summer months they offer a larger variety of produce potatoes, tomatoes, squash, onions, zucchini, radishes, parsnips etc. Yet during the winter that reduces down to just the squashes and onions which they keep in their storage facilities. They still offer other ontario produce at their stand which includes cabbage, different potato varieties, beets etc from different local farms. Another local item they offer is maple syrup, which produced the Mennonites in Kitchener Ontario. (side note: this maple syrup is really good, and is also sold during the maple festival they hold in Elmira, which is definitely worth checking out.) One of the things i found interesting about the Buttrum’s stand was they had produce that wasn’t produced in ontario like limes and other citrus. The reason i think that is so interesting is because during those winter months when variety is low it’s hard to get people to come to the market for apples and roots vegetables. So be having that variety it makes them slightly more competitive with the big chain grocers.
So the Buttrum farm specializes in fresh local, seasonal, and pesticide free produce. Many people confuse pesticide free with organic which isn’t the same. Pesticide free simply means they don’t use synthetic herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides but they might use synthetic fertilizers or genetically modified plants or seeds. When we actually talked to Shea about the whole organic growing, she told us they had tried it for one year and it didn’t work out for them so they went back to just being pesticide free. One of the messages she tried to impart on us was the importance of supporting the local farmers and food suppliers. She brought up the fact that many of the larger grocery store chains buy food so cheaply that it drives many of these local farms out of business. Which should be major concern for us since having that local option is always going to be better.
We had A chance to speak to a mother and daughter from Fleetwood farms who is another local farm, who had the same concerns as Buttrum’s which is the labour force. According to Steven Laing the average age of a farmer is 58 years old, and the youth moment doesn’t exactly seem to be there. So much so that Fleetwood Farms actually brings in workers from Jamaica to help with planting and picking the crops, simply because no one here wants to do that physical labour. That seems to be a common theme among these farmers they are getting older, their children don’t want to take over and there isn’t any youth who want to work and do that physical labour leaving many in a state of flux. Going back to the point Shea brought up about supporting local farmers, having to do a physical labor job in todays society is certainly a hard sell to many people, add in the fact that the industry is suffering with the competition from major grocers makes it even harder. So it raises the question how do we make farming a more desirable job here in Canada?
Back in 2009 the Buttrum’s rented out an acre of their land to this community collective group from Hamilton who were looking to make there own urban garden. They are actually a relatively young group of people and they helped on the farm as well as planted their own crops. This eventually turned into a few a few more acres of land with varieties of vegetables tomatoes, beets, potatoes, hot peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini etc. For me it’s having experiences such as these that might help actually bring a younger population to the farming industry, to show them how rewarding growing local sustainable products is.
Unfortunately Buttrum’s Farms does not have a website but if you want to check out more you can check their Facebook page or instagram in the links below
A link about that community collective