Food unites us, but how much do we know about the people who work hard day-in and day-out to ensure Canadians have access to fresh, safe, nutritious, and delicious food? With a food supply chain as diverse and plentiful as ours – it really does take a village. Faces Behind Food will capture the passion behind the food we love, one person at a time.

Hugh, commercial beekeeper

“For 25 years, I worked across North America in the financial services industry and in 2008, I was motivated by the market conditions to leave the corporate world and move permanently to my farm near Collingwood. I’ve had an interest in farms and farming forever, and I looked at various farm business opportunities before settling on beekeeping/honey production. I learned the business by interning for a year with a successful commercial beekeeper and every year thereafter…on the job.

I think most people’s perceptions of beekeeping would benefit from a conversation with a commercial beekeeper so they could understand the risks and challenges associated with this unique farm business. Like any other farm, my success is subject to myriad uncontrollable variables like weather, markets and input costs. And they’re all compounded by the pests and diseases that can weaken the health of a bee colony. I love getting the chance to meet people of all ages and backgrounds, both in-person and online, who are curious to learn more about honey bees and to answer their questions.

Consumer trends play a big role in the marketplace, so the public must understand the work that farmers like me do to grow safe and delicious food for them.”

Kathleen, farmer and maple syrup producer

“I’m the free help! My job here is to label the maple syrup bottles that my husband and son fill with syrup made from the maple trees on our farm.

I spent four hours out here yesterday and will keep working as long as I’m needed. We mostly fill glass bottles now. People like them because they’re easier to recycle.

Each label contains batch codes so that we know the exact date that they were filled. The labels also contain nutritional information and the grade of syrup – which reflects the colour and taste. In Ontario, that could be golden, amber, dark or very dark.

My favourite grade of syrup is the golden colour that comes at the beginning of the season. Some people like the darker colours, but I like them lighter.”

Mark, Chef at Merk Snack Bar – @merksnackbar

“I took over this business from my bosses. For myself, I originally planned to have a take-out business that operated from 10am to 7pm.  But then I guess Providence decided that I actually wanted a badass bar where I can be free to create the things I want, learn and grow in my craft every day.

I love this neighbourhood. And really, Hamilton is the best place in the world. This community really appreciates the effort, and they will show you love in return when they see how genuine you are. Most of the local business owners have the mentality of building Ottawa Street into something awesome, unique and special. And I plan to be a part of that.  I want to be here for whatever the community needs; sports teams, small gatherings, wedding anniversaries. Hell, if you just wanna run and hide for a bit with a pint or a plate of mushrooms, we got you.

The last three months have been tough. But I had my original take-out business plan in my back pocket, so I had to dust it off and try to get something going. The community is what’s really helped it be not so bad. They came through and showed as much support and love as they always have.  We cant wait to get back to some kind of normal.

Our community involvement is a big part of what sets us apart. I think I have the best staff in town- we are small and knowledgeable and don’t take ourselves incredibly seriously, but at the same time, are very professional and serious about our craft. I’m also a big farm fresh/ farm market supporter.  You can find me at the farmers market in Jackson or one out in the country, picking fruit and veggies to bring back and make something delicious for my customers.  Hamilton has soo many places to pick fruit and veggies. I kind of use it as a tool to educate people about where the food comes from and what’s available pretty much in your back yard.  Whether you walk into Merk for the first time or for the third time that day, we greet you like an old friend. I want people to feel at home and like they’re a part of what makes this place tick.”

Pardeep, BC greenhouse operator

“My dad’s been a farmer since 1984. He originally grew berries but transitioned over to growing greenhouse bell peppers around 1998. Growing up, living on a family farm was the best thing ever. I started out helping on the farm as a young girl, picking berries and doing chores. I used to be in charge of cleaning up, which involved pulling up the year’s previous crop and planting a new one. Now, I’m responsible for training people on the grading line, where the peppers are processed and then put into boxes.

Buying local is very important because, first of all, we want to support local farmers, and also it lets us decrease our carbon imprint. We pretty much put peppers on everything we eat. It’s important to know what goes in our food, and by growing crops in a greenhouse, we can closely monitor them, and they’re available nearly all year long. We plant in the winter, and then we’re ready to harvest in the spring. “

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