I have been aware of this unique farm owned by Tony and Fran McQuail for years, but recently visited for the first time. It was a beautiful fall morning, perfect for a drive through the rolling hills of East Wawanosh Township to this wonderful spot where the McQuails have lived since 1973 .. a beautiful 100 acres where they raised their family.
The McQuails were both raised in the United States ~ Tony in Pennsylvania, Fran in Indiana. Disenchanted by US war policies with respect to the War in Vietnam, Tony emigrated to Canada in 1971.
Meeting Place is an old-fashioned mixed family farm that reminded me much of my grandfather’s farm. This farm is not certified organic, but a shared interest in ecology has always driven decisions made by the McQuail’s in their operation. They have always been uncomfortable with chemical applications and found that herbicide damage to the orchards led them to try organic growing systems. They continue to learn and practice organic farming methods noting building good soil fertility takes care of many of the challenges by reducing pests and disease and, ultimately, growing healthier plants.
Fran feels a lost lore – unknown land and natural farming methods – have resulted in modern day farmers not embracing organic farming on a larger scale, although out west and across the United States there is are emerging large scale operations in response to increasing consumer demand. She did note that one of the biggest challenges here is a lack of infrastructure for famers to sell into on a large scale.
Originally Fran worked off the farm while raising their family. The McQuail’s grew a CSA vegetable garden for twelve years at which time they started to market their products to urban consumers. They eventually developed meal sales as well. A greenhouse on site allows for them to raise transplants for their market garden as well as plants for their annual May Open House – a popular spring event where consumers find organic vegetable and herbs plants for transplant. Heirloom tomato seeds and snow peas for terra edibles are also produced here for mail-order seed houses.
APPLE BUTTER ~ APPLE CIDER
Specialty products here include Apple Butter, sold primarily through farm-gate (direct at the farm) although may be found at Pandora’s Pantry in Wingham or Fine Fettle in Kincardine. When yield in the orchard is large, apple cider is available too, although this year’s crop suffered from a harsh winter and late spring. The trees in this orchard are semi-dwarf, planted approximately 20 years ago. Varieties include heirloom brands like spy and macintosh as well as newer brands like Freedom and Nora Mae, a hardy disease resistant variety.
BEEF ~ PORK ~ CHICKEN ~ LAMB
Freezer meats including beef, pork, chicken and lamb are available year-round. The McQuail’s provide home to a herd of twelve herford and angus cattle. They practise holistic management where cattle are moved every day to provide a fresh grazing area. This means fencing is moved daily too. A tool called a Reelbarrow assists in this task. Pigs are sourced from a local Amish neighbour and are pastured here too. Laying hens are on site as well as up to 300 chickens (Limited per quota), sourced from Frey’s Hatchery in St. Jacobs. The lamb is no longer grown at Meeting Place, but is produced by a local farmer.
The McQuail’s now employ Ginger and Gaelan, two Fjord Mares – or small work horses – they received spring 2014. These animals have heart .. an attitude to work, both eager and hardy. Fran noted there is no longer a need for the larger Belgian Horses they used to have on the farm since the beginning.
Tony and Fran are are looking to their daughter, Katrina, returning home to run the farm in partnership with them this fall. She spent time at home during the summer of 2009-’10 to test her interest in its long-term lifestyle. Her primary interest is in the livestock and she claims to be a “foodie”. This will allow Fran and Tony more time to semi-retire.
Holistic Management drives the decisions made on the McQuail farming ~ always keeping quality of life in focus. For twelve years the McQuail’s have hosted apprentices through the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) in an effort to share their knowledge work and lifestyle choices with next generations. When they had their market garden, they hosted three or four apprentices, but currently they have Aidan – a young man who voiced his primary interest in the horses and the gardens.
I noticed a small wind generator on the farm that I asked Fran about. It was installed in the late 70’s when early alternatives to energy were being explored. The McQuails ran into mechanical problems with this project so it’s no longer operational. Fran McQuail feels solar panels are more reliable for small scale operations than wind generator’s.
86016 Creek Line, RR 1
Lucknow ON N0G 2H0
Lucknow ON N0G 2H0
In Ashfield Wawanosh Colborne Township