Ontario Food Heroes- Farmer

Here we will profile people in this province who have helped to shape the way we eat, cook and think about food.

Antony John, farmer

Stratford Farmer, Antony John

Stratford Farmer, Antony John

As the owner of Soiled Reputation, Antony, has devoted his career to organic greens and vegetables. His farm in Stratford grows all year round thanks to four large greenhouses. “Except for a few tough weeks in January and February, we’re picking all year.” he recently told Gremolata.

Those greens end up on the menus at restaurants all over the city and have sparked our current insatiable interest in fresh, organic produce.

Where did you start out in the food world?

I started out right after university, working for Tina’s dad on his dairy farm.  From there it was landscaping for The Old Prune and Rundles in Stratford, and eventually growing food for them.

What changes have you seen over the years in how the people you meet feel about local farmers and food?

I came into this at the bottom of the pendulum, where I’d get quotes from chefs like “I don’t care if it’s local or organic, as long as it’s green”.  I say pendulum because, up until the 1950’s, market gardeners in North America were respected craftsmen.  I feel that tradition is only recently enjoying a rennaissance.

What is your favourite vegetable?

I’d have to say the Romanesco cauliflower is my favourite vegetable, because it represents so much for me.  First, it’s flavour is remarkable, it stays a vibrant, life-affirming chartreuse when you roast it, it’s the best example of fractal geometry and a Fibonacci mathematical sequence in the living world, and it’s structure is a perfect visual metaphor for the connectedness and complexity of ecosystems and food webs.  Lastly, it’s only around for a few weeks, so enjoy it while you can, just like life!

farm animal?

I’ve worked with most farm animals over the 25 years I’ve been farming, and I’d have to say it’s the Holstein dairy cow

season?

Spring is my favourite season – it’s still full of potential and promise, you haven’t screwed anything up in the field yet, and songbirds are migrating back from their winter homes!

Where are some of your favourite places in Ontario for food/drink?

Perth County has some of the most productive soils in Ontario for growing food, an envious combination of clay and loam, coupled with fairly regular rains from Lake Huron. Just as in viniculture, this has a trickle-down effect into the flavour of the food. In addition, Stratford is blessed with a vibrant culinary scene, so I’m lucky and glad to eat right here!

For wine, I head to Marin Malivoire’s winery and sample (ok, hoard) his incredible wines. After that, we might go back to join him and Moira at home and cook together. Two Soils = One Passion.

the farmer as a young cowboy

the farmer as a young cowboy


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