[Event] I Heart Farmers Retreat hosted by Mairlyn Smith

Websites: Canola Eat Well, Canola Growers, Applewood Farm and Winery, South Pond Farms, Branding and Buzzing
Event Date:  Sept. 22nd, 2016, media tour

*Disclosure: I was invited by Branding and Buzzing for the farm tour with all meals and activities complimentary. This is a sponsored post but all views expressed in the post are my own. I have used “no follow” links.

I was invited to the “I Heart Farmers” media tour sponsored by Eat Well Canola, where I had the opportunity to visit two Ontario farms and learn about canola oil. In this post, I will be sharing fun facts about canola oil and a recap on my fun retreat. It was the first day of fall and we lucked out with beautiful sunny skies and late summer weather.

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

The event was hosted by the funny and talented Mairlyn Smith (@mairlynsmith), who has an impressive repertoire, including being a Second City alumni, Cityline guest expert, and a cook book author. Mairlyn’s book “Homegrown: Celebrating the Canadian Foods We Grow, Raise and Produce” was shortlisted for the Taste Canada Awards. Lucky me – I got a signed copy!

Got my signed copy by Mairlyn Smith. Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Got my signed copy  of ‘HomeGrown’ by Mairlyn Smith.
Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

I invited Waleed (http://waleedhafeez.com/Mary’s Happy Belly contributor) and MJ (IG @mjeatstoronto) to join me in the fun. It was exciting to see fellow bloggers Carole (YumYumFactor) and Christine (Amidst the Chaos) amongst the influencers attending the event.

Waleed, MJ and I on the #IheartFarm media tour. Picture of MJ & Waleed are taken by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Waleed, MJ and I on the #IheartFarm media tour. Picture of MJ & Waleed are taken by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Our intimate group also included Will (@will_bergmann), a cool farmer from Manitoba; the ‘Canola Eat Well Team, including Ellen (@Ellen_Pruden), Jennifer (@JenniferDyck) and Simone (@learncanola); as well as the ‘Branding and Buzzing’ team, including Sean (@seanbeckingham), Marian (@mstaresinic) and Aimee (@aimiecook). Please note that all handles listed are for their Twitter accounts.

I Heart Farmers Media Tour

I Heart Farmers Media Tour. Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

First off, let’s talk Canola!

I am a huge fan of canola oil and it is the cooking oil of choice in my home. I choose canola oil because it is locally sourced, healthy, and versatile!

I recently made a chimichurri chicken wing recipe (chicken recipe here) and mixed canola oil with extra virgin olive oil for the base. I like the runnier consistency of canola oil over the EVOO as a sauce, and it absorbs the taste of the herbs nicely. More great recipes are posted on the Canola Eat Well website.

Top 10 facts about Canola Oil:

  1. It’s Canadian! The name ‘Canola’ was registered as a trademark in Canada in 1970. The name comes from “Can” as in Canada and “ola” as in oil!
  2. Canola belongs to a section (or genus) of the crucifer family called Brassica. As well as canola, Brassica plants include mustard, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and turnip.
  3. Canola may look the same as rapeseed but it is NOT RAPESEED. The nutritional makeup is totally different. Canola came about after years of hard work, research and countless field tests of new plant varieties.
  4. Canola is grown for you by over 43,000 family farmers on the Canadian Prairies.
  5. Ninety per cent (90%) of Canadian canola is exported throughout the world, bringing back more than $9 billion to the country’s economy.
  6. Canola Oil is a great source of vitamins E & K.
  7. It is a source of omega 3-fat and omega-6. Omega 6 is important for the brain and essential for the growth and development of infants. Omega 3 fats are an anti-inflammatory that can help protect against heart attacks and strokes.
  8. It has the lowest amount of saturated fats, which is half that of olive oil. It has zero trans fat and cholesterol.
  9. The taste is neutral and light, which makes it great for baking and cooking. When you add herbs and spices, canola oil absorbs the flavours, making it very versatile.
  10. It has a high heat/smoke point, as high as 242 C/468 F. Other oils break down and lose their nutritional value at high temperatures. Don’t be afraid to fire up the grill—it can take the heat!

(Source: CanolaEatWell)

I Heart Farmers Retreat 

Our group met at Liberty village to board our private bus, where we had our introductions. Mairlyn Smith made each of us cookies from her new cookbook; they were packed with tasty grains, fibre, and all of the ingredients were 100% locally sourced. One thing I learned from Mairlyn is that “if you increase your fibre intake you must increase your water intake or you are doing it wrong!”. That is a great rule that I will now follow. You didn’t expect that as an intro to my day, right?

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Our first farm tour was at APPLEWOOD FARM WINERY located in Stouffville, Ontario. The farm is a close distance to my house, and I have visited many times for their pumpkin patches, and more recently, strawberry picking. The farm is great for kids with a wagon ride and an outdoor playground.  At their store, customers can pick up apple products including jams, ciders, and apple wine.

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Applewood farm

Applewood farm

Applewood offers an impressive 13 varieties in their orchard. I had the chance to hand pick a bag full of Honey Crisp Apples with a few of the Cortland variety. They were juicy, sweet and slightly tart; perfect for snacking!

Fun day apple picking at Applewood Farms. Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Fun day apple picking at Applewood Farms.
Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Picking Honey Crisp Apples at Applewood Farm and Winery

Picking Honey Crisp Apples at Applewood Farm and Winery

On our way to the next farm, Will (http://www.willbergmann.com/) told us interesting stories and facts about farm life in Manitoba. A lot of hard work goes into farming! Factors such as climate changes, soil conditions, and natural events all impact the proper development and growth of crops. The adaptation and use of technology has helped increase efficiency in his work. Will is truly passionate about what he does and is full of information! I encourage you to connect with Will on Twitter (@will_bergmann), and join in the conversation about farming or farm life.

Will Bergmann, Manitoba Farmer

Will Bergmann, Manitoba Farmer

Next, we headed to SOUTH POND FARMS located at Pontypool, Ontario – just 75 minutes from Toronto. This farm had a picturesque barn in a beautiful country setting with rolling hills. They host a number of events and celebrations, such as weddings.

South Pond Farms. Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

South Pond Farms. Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Georgeous South Pond Farms

Georgeous South Pond Farms

I was happily surprised that we got to participate in a flower arranging workshop. Aside from putting a bouquet of flowers into a vase, I haven’t done anything like this. The best part – there was no right or wrong way to do it. It was a therapeutic experience and each one of our arrangements were a reflection of us! I wonder what my arrangement says about me?

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

My flowers. Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

My flowers. Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

My flower arrangement

My flower arrangement

We brought our beautiful flowers with us for an outdoor picnic in the open field. It was picture perfect!

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

We started out with a cheese platter from Toronto’s Cheese Boutique served with whole wheat seed bread and white wine from Del Gatto Estates.

Wine by Del Gatto Estates.

Wine by Del Gatto Estates.

Our tasty lunch was made by Mairlyn Smith with recipes made from her new cookbook, with canola oil incorporated into every dish.

Our lunch menu

Our lunch menu

I loved that each of our salads were pre-portioned so there was enough to eat with no waste. Throughout our picnic, Mairlyn gave us tips on how to work with canola oil and the benefits. Because canola oil has a high smoke point, the jerk chicken that was marinated in the spices and canola could be placed on the barbeque at high temperatures.

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We were all fighting to try the different salad dressings, which were all unique. This included birch syrup dressing, honey mustard dressing, and the ice wine dressing. The neutral taste of the canola oil  was a great canvas for the other flavours to shine.

Canola Crush Activity

We talked about canola oil all day, but finally we got to see, feel and play with the canola seeds to better understand canola. The small black seeds looked like black mustard seeds, but the insides were yellow and each seed grows to be a large plant.

As a farmer, there is a lot of quality control to produce quality crops. The seeds have to be sorted, where only 2% of the seeds can be immature seeds (the insides are green).  Each seed needs to produce about 42% content of oil.

I got to try out an activity by crushing the seeds with a mini rolling pin to see if I can find any green seeds. Out of the 100 seeds I crushed, I had one green one. This activity gave me a whole new appreciation for farm life and the hard work that goes into it.

Canola seeds

Canola seeds

Canola Crush Activity. Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

Canola Crush Activity. Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola.

What a fun experience hanging out with a really cool group while learning a ton!

I leave you with a short must watch video that highlights our day. I will show you how to properly pick an apple from a tree!

Take away from the post:

  • Canola is Canadian! It’s local, healthy, and versatile (see my top 10 list for facts and benefits).
  • It’s apple picking season at Applewood Farm. Go check them out!
  • Have an event or want to take a workshop? Check out South Pond Farms.
  • Go buy Mairlyn Smith’s new cookbook “Homegrown: Celebrating the Canadian Foods We Grow, Raise and Produce”. In Homegrown, Mairlyn Smith proves that canola can be the key ingredient in any meal.
  • CanolaEatWell.com is about inspiring you in the kitchen and connecting you to the farm with Canada’s oil, canola oil. They are a joint partnership between Alberta Canola, Saskatchewan and Canola Manitoba Canola Growers.
  • Only 2% of Canadians are farmers. Connect with a farmer and join the conversation. Follow @canolaeatwell, @will_bergmann and grow conversations about #farmtofood .
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