Story by Montana Jones, photos by Albert Botha—this article was originally published in Watershed Magazine
The long light of Thanksgiving spills fresh orange across the day under autumn’s lustrous sky. The garden is spent, the larder is full, and focus shifts to savouring the farm’s fall bounty. A chorus of applauding leaves rustle their appreciation as award-winning Chef Jamie Kennedy strolls up the lane of Wholearth Farmstudio. It’s a long way from the city’s top restaurants, but in crisp whites and apron, he looks as comfortable sauntering here as his Gilead Café in Toronto.
On one side, dark-faced heritage Shropshire sheep peer back at him through cedar rail fences; on the other, a group of chortling amber pigs busy themselves rooting up a particularly interesting clod in their pasture. Preparing good, real food with veneration, and sharing it with friends and family is a deep sweet satisfaction on this Hastings farm. That simple inclination grew into the Wholearth Heritage Harvest Feast, a field-to-table gathering uniting chefs, guests and farmers. Visitors walk with heritage sheep and poultry in the field, see vegetables in the garden, then taste the exquisite flavours outdoors on a plate.
They are here to celebrate cuisine where it begins; to appreciate dinner on the same soil where the menu was grown, prepared by chefs who care as passionately about food as the farmers who raised it.
Jamie heads to a grassy rise beside the farmhouse, where he’s been lovingly roasting a heritage Tamworth pig since the wee hours. He joins local chefs Brad Watt (Rare Grill), Lisa Dixon (Black Honey) and Evan Podd (38 Degrees and Old Bridge Inn), who also believe that familiarity with the farm is a perfect way to understand the notion of local, seasonal food. Brad is bent over his pork belly, adjusting the grill in anticipation of painting on a glaze of wild elderberry, while Evan caramelizes onions for his apple cider-braised Jersey Giant chicken. It’s a rare chicken, one of several heritage breeds at Wholearth, that have the delicious distinction of being on the Slow Food Ark of Taste, as do the Tamworth pigs and Bourbon Red turkeys raised here. Heritage breeds have a unique depth of flavour and succulence that can’t be found in supermarket meats. Likewise, heirloom vegetables are exceptional in appearance and taste. It’s a fine fall day on the land, among animals and good people appreciating the rhythm and reward of growing earth’s gifts…the kind of day your heart feels like the sun in your chest.
Wholearth Heritage Harvest Feast menu:
- Hubbard squash soup with fried parsnips, lavender and French tarragon
- Apple cider-braised Jersey Giant chicken with caramelized onions
- Roasted red pepper, rosemary and goat cheese scalloped potatoes
- Roasted autumn root vegetables with beets, fennel, rutabaga and carrots
- Mammoth red rock cabbage
- grilled heritage Shropshire lamb
- Heritage Tamworth pork belly with wild elderberry and maple glaze
- Coffee maple baked beans
- spit-roasted Heritage Tamworth pork with squash, apple, onion stuffing and apple cider gravy
- pumpkin and acorn squash bread pudding with honey caramel glaze
- goat cheese truffle with maple crunch
- wild rice and goat milk pudding