Farm Fresh in Waterloo Region

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by Andrew Coppolino | April 2024

After a successfully delicious and engaging first season, FARM TO FORK is back for its sophomore run, showcasing the bounty of farm freshness in Waterloo Region and the farmers and chefs who get the goodness to your plate.  
Waterloo Region-based chef and local-food activist Nick Benninger returns as the show’s host, and says the six episodes feature a wide range of farmers and producers that paint a picture of spring coming to life. 
“I’m energized and excited to cook and once again explore all the wonderful foods and products produced in our region,” says Benninger of the post-winter hibernation. “Spring is in the air, and the edible world is coming back to life. Every food lover can feel that energy.” 

The season two segments feature 6 awesome area producers: Church Hill Farm, Appleflats Orchard, Stevanus Family Farm, Udderly Ridiculous, 3Gen Organics Family Farm and Willibald Farm Distillery and Brewery

 In each case, Benninger visits the producers and invites the viewers along as he learns about each farm businesses and what their daily workday looks like. Benninger then cooks up a dish – often over an open fire – that prepares their farm fresh food in a new and delicious way.  
Take Stevanus Family Farm in Bloomingdale, for instance: it’s a perfect example of “springing to life” for Benninger.  
“Perhaps no farm represents the harbinger of spring to me like Stevanus. Their asparagus for me as a chef – and just as someone who loves to eat – is the first taste of our region.” 

At FourQuarter Butcher Shop in Kitchener, you can purchase Stevanus vegetables, but you can also find them in the products that FourQuarter owner Colby LeMoine makes in-house at their popular butcher shop and retail store.  
This is the third summer the pair have collaborated selling Stevanus seasonal vegetables and several varieties of potatoes along with onions and herbs. Stevanus ingredients go into some sausages that ForeQuarter makes on-site and into their line of pre-made soups and stews. 

“The Stevanus family is great to deal with. Friendly and they really know their product. It shows in the quality,” says LeMoine. “It’s nice to deal with the farm directly. We have Aaron on text, and he lets us know what he currently has. He often delivers it himself.” 

At Kitchener’s Borealis Grille and Bar in Kitchener, chef Daniel Neri uses pork from 3Gen Organics Family Farm, located in Wallenstein. During his farm visit, Benninger says he learned a lot about what he calls “an amazing example of expertly raised pork,” adding that Neri knows just how to treat it. “Smoked pork chops with house-made apple mustard. It’s so good,” he says.

Just a few minutes into the Ayr countryside and a few minutes south of Kitchener, Willibald Farm Distillery and Brewery is a unique venture by founders Jordan Van der Heyden, Cam Formica and Joe Freund. 
Situated on the Van der Heyden family farm, FARM TO FORK and Benninger cooked a traditional Brazilian picanha steak. “I learned a lot at Willibald,” he says. “Including how they make beer and how they bottle gingerbread-spiced whisky.” 

Three men smiling and standing inside the distillery at Willibald's in Ayr
Inside the distillery at Willibald Farm Distillery & Brewery in Ayr, ON.

Willibald chef de cuisine and pizza maker extraordinaire Brian McCourt says his kitchen virtually has its hands in the Willibald soil. They plant gardens right on the farm, producing tomatoes, greens and herbs, garlic and what he describes as a few treats including perhaps a “mushroom log” or two.   
They also forage for ingredients on the farm, and McCourt says that ramps and early wild mushrooms will be on the Willibald restaurant menu. He also draws on the local bounty of “some amazing farmers” nearby, working with Alexandra at Alexandra’s Farm in Ayr, Sarah for microgreens at Browne Manor in Cambridge and forest and farm mushrooms from Mallory at Forét Mushrooms in Puslinch.  
“We are excited to get all these products back on our menu,” say McCourt. “Everything from salad greens, seasonal vegetables and sprouts and shoots to locally foraged mushrooms. We have a neighbour in Ayrsyde Farms who supplies us with pork and beef. What’s really cool and hyper-local is that the pigs and beef cattle graze on our pasture.” 
That, it seems, is also what is cool when spring has sprung in Waterloo Region. 


Andrew Coppolino is food columnist with CBC-KW and Metroland newspapers. The author of Farm to Table (Swan Parade Press) and co-author of Cooking with Shakespeare (Greenwood Press), he is the 2022 “Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer-in-Residence” at the Stratford Chefs School. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @andrewcoppolino. 


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