Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’
Torontoist’s Andre Proulx looks at how Ontario’s wine industry is continuing to develop.
Cave Spring Cellars made their first vintage in 1986. It was a small 500-case batch of wine. This date is a reminder of how early we are in the history of wine in this province. It was one of the first eight wineries in the province and second on the Beamsville Bench.
I recently had a chance to speak with Len Pennachetti, the president and founder of Cave Spring Cellars (and brother of Toronto’s former city manager). He got his start in the wine industry when he was tasked with working vineyards that were purchased by his father.
Not all grapes are created equal; neither are Canadian wines. Prior to the founding of Inniskillin in 1974, Ontario wines were made using labrusca grapes—those Concord grapes found in farmers’ markets at the twilight of summer.
Today, the European grape, vinifera, is used to make most fine wines. Even by 1986, 10 years after Inniskillin had been founded, there were still only a handful of farmers who had made the switch. The challenge with growing vinifera in Ontario isn’t so much the summer but the punishing winters. When the temperature starts to dip below -15, frigid temperatures begin to cause damage or even kill vines.
As one of the founding members of VQA, Pennachetti had a hand in crafting the rules that determine the quality of Ontario wines. The VQA ensures not only that the grapes are 100 per cent Ontario grown, but also that the grapes are vinifera.
Chris Bateman described how the Reesor family in north Scarborough remain the last farmers active within the borders of the city of Toronto.
Dale Reesor figures he’s the last farmer in Toronto.
Since his elderly neighbour Jim Murison passed away in December, Reesor’s family is the only one he knows of that’s still growing crops commercially in the city.
From their 136-year-old farmhouse on the south side of Steeles Ave. E. in north Scarborough, Dale and Lois Reesor and their five kids work about 350 acres of land within the Toronto city limits under the name Sweet Ridge Farms. They grow mostly sweet corn, about 10 to 12 varieties, plus soybeans and wheat.
It’s a way of life that stretches back more than 200 years.
The Reesors “came to the Toronto area, Markham and Scarborough, in 1804,” Dale said. “It’s a Mennonite family. They came from Pennsylvania. They travelled up and bought land in this area. It’s been the same family ever since.”