Mabel May Farms is our most local supplier, we share an address, a farm field and our bees graze the fields alongside their grass fed sheep. The farm supplies pastured and grass fed meats and eggs with particular focus on local Burlington raised grass fed lamb. Meaghan, our farmer and co- founder, manages Mabel May Farms along with her husband Norm. We sat down with Norm and Meaghan and asked them a few questions about their family farm, the food they grow and what they are excited about in 2020.
1. The farm name is very interesting, where did it come from?
"Mabel May Farms is actually named after Norm's grandmother, Mabel May Burkholder Richardson. We thought naming the farm after her would be a nice nod to a strong, passionate farming woman who was so integral to getting the family farm to where it is today. Plus, we think it has a nice ring to it. Although I do get called Mabel a lot."
2. Can you tell us a bit about the farm, what you grow and the practices you use?
"Our farm is 138 acres in beautiful North Burlington, just south of Milton. Along with Norm's dad we manage approximately 1200 acres in the Region growing and custom harvesting hay and forage (feed for animals), biomass crops such as switchgrass and miscanthus (for bedding, fuel and feed) and pasture based livestock including pigs, sheep, cattle and chickens. Our focus over the last few years has really turned to regenerative style agriculture, using the grazing animals to benefit soil health and soil microbes, keeping our fields covered so that the rain infiltrates the soil and doesn't run off causing issues in waterways, composting manure and growing perennial biomass and forage crops. We believe that a healthy ecosystem needs both plants and animals."
3. What is your favourite season on the farm?
"Can we say all of it? One of our favourite seasons is certainly lambing season. Its top of mind as we are expecting our ewes to start lambing any day now. So starts the work of ensuring that each ewe has what she needs, that her lambs are strong and healthy and drinking well and get off to a good start. Our old barn has lots of great ventilation, which keeps the sheep healthy, but it also means when it gets below -5 C we have to get the lambs dried off quickly and get them drinking from mama. Its the more stressful, sleep deprived and coldest season on the farm but its also the most beautiful, joyful and miraculous time as well. Second, its that early summer start into hay season, when we have the beautiful smell of fresh cut hay, the animals are all rotationally grazing on pasture, chickens are moving each day in their cackellacs and the whole family is working together to make hay, those days are pure bliss (until something breaks on the baler!)."
4. Any new products coming in 2020?
"Well, we are actually making some big changes on the farm in terms of our livestock production. In 2020, we have decided to sell our cattle herd and take a year off of pastured pigs to focus on growing and perfecting our grass fed lamb to provide customers with exceptional Burlington raised grass fed lamb. We will continue to sell farm fresh eggs and are adding a few different heritage chickens to the flock who lay some very interesting colored eggs. We will be focusing on sweet corn and some vegetables on the farm this year and just harvested our first two flats of micro-greens. We are really excited to get some feedback from your customers on some of our new products as they come up."
5. Why do you believe in local?
"For us, local, especially local food,is all about connection, which is why we think that what Backed By Bees is doing is so amazing. We buy and support local because we understand the tremendous impact community support has on a business. Its really amazing what you can do with local foods all year round in Ontario."
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