Here we will introduce you to the young, passionate entrepreneurs behind some of the products on our shelves. These are the people who are helping to shape the way we eat with their new and innovative products.
Mill Pond Cannery and Preserves Co.
Dave Smythe and Donna Carmichael, owners
It began with some observations, then an idea…infused with a philosophy, and firmly grounded in our own beliefs about the food we eat. The increasingly complex and mysterious global food system was showing some frightening cracks and flaws. The loss of heritage varieties of fruit as a result of the increasingly ‘mono-culture’ practices of large-scale contemporary agriculture. The increasing commoditization of our food. The prevalence of refined sugar in our diets, and the increasing use of high-fructose corn syrup in so many of the foods we eat…well, the list of observations got pretty long.
The idea…why not eat products that incorporate what’s grown in our own lush and high-quality orchards and farms? Why not support Canadian farmers and growers? Why not get back to the ‘original’ and natural sweeteners, such as honey and maple syrup? And Mill Pond Cannery and Preserves Company was born…
Our all-natural products include exclusively Ontario-grown produce, pears, peaches, plums, and apples, tart ruby-red cranberries, and golden honey from Ontario apiaries. Our fruit butter is based on an old recipe, handed down over the generations. It is time to rethink what we eat, where it is grown, and how it is made…close to home, close to perfect.
Where did you start out in the food world?
About a year and a half ago we began to conceptualize a new kind of food company, with a focus on all-natural products using 100% local ingredients. Once we had articulated our vision and company values, we began to develop our product lines and recipes with a focus on Ontario fruit.
What inspires you to do what you do?
We are passionate about using local ingredients, as well as using traditional recipes. We looked through many old cookbooks from the 1940’s and 1950’s, and saw that fruit butter was a mainstay in the ‘preserves’ sections of these traditional cookbooks. The concept appealed to us tremendously, especially in view of the bounty of wonderful fruit grown in Ontario. We wanted to work with a top-notch culinary school (Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts department at George Brown College) to help us develop our recipes, with particular emphasis on including culinary students in the development process because we think that using local ingredients needs to be ingrained in young chefs during their training, and shouldn’t be something that they ‘come to’ later on in their careers.
Our Ontario climate means that the growing and harvesting season is, of course, relatively short and in order to enjoy Ontario fruit all year long, the best option is to make preserved products that truly reveal the flavour of the fruit and not some over-sugared product. Our fruit butters are intended to taste like a luscious ripe fruit, so we only use three simple ingredients in our products – fruit, with a small amount of honey and cider vinegar, and then we add a touch of an interesting Canadian-grown herb.
What has been the biggest struggle or obstacle you’ve had to overcome in order to get your product onto shelves?
The biggest challenge for us has been the post-harvest handling and pre-processing of the Ontario fruit. The food system infrastructure in Ontario has been significantly eroded over the last 20 years, as a result of tough global competition as well as consolidation of small local processors into larger conglomerates. As a country, we have lost much of our locally-based domestic food infrastructure, and this poses a challenge for companies like ours who are committed to producing truly local products.