The recently held 5th annual Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference ‘Destination Quinte Region’ tour was hit with delegates. There were six delicious stops on the tour, highlighting some of the region’s local food diversity and success stories, and providing a closer view of their operations.
The first stop included a tour and delicious sampling of product from La Cultura Salumi in Quinte West. Jane Aballe provided participants with an overview of the operation, and spoke about the care and attention every piece of meat receives as it’s cured in using old world traditions.
Next stop was at Grill’s Orchards, also in Quinte West, where we were treated to a delicious hot soup and fresh bread lunch, followed by amazing apple crisp, all prepared in-house. We were regaled by Randy and Diana McPherson with how they evolved and diversified their operation, ultimately becoming a retail hub for many different local products, as well as maintaining their original purpose which was … an orchard and apple market.
At the Ontario Water Buffalo Company in Stirling, Martin Littkemann and Lori Smith toured us around their farm operation where they lovingly take care of over 350 water buffalo, and operate their Buff Stuff store. They showed us their new state-of-the-art milking system for the water buffalo, and treated us to some absolutely delicious buffalo mozzarella cheese, cured meats, and other products from their retail store .
Our next stop was Maple Dale Cheese in Plainfield, an award winning cheese-maker since 1888. We were toured through the plant, getting a step-by-step insight into the cheese-making process and Maple Dale’s commitment to quality. Again we were treated to a variety of their delicious products for sale in their retail store.
Onwards we went to Reid’s Dairy in Belleville, the largest independent dairy in Ontario, a 24/7 operation employing 90 full and part-time staff in a 50,000 square foot facility. Product from Reid’s is distributed to retailers and institutions from Hamilton to Ottawa. They are particularly well-known in the region for their ‘Loonie Shakes’. At the Dairy, a smaller group donned safety boots, hair nets, and protective clothing and were treated to an in-depth tour of the operation, while others were treated to yes, you guessed it, a Loonie Shake!
Our last stop was at Donini Chocolate, where the art of chocolate-making runs deep in the family’s history, starting in Italy over 60 years ago. Samples of their decadent chocolate were enjoyed by everyone.
It was an awesome, deliciously filling and informative afternoon spent touring the Quinte Region. A great opportunity for conference delegates to gain greater insight into some of the opportunities and successful operations in the Eastern Ontario regional local food system.