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Whittamore's Farm, Markham, ON


Posted by : Anonymous, Mon, Aug 11 2008

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One summer, as teenagers growing up in Markham, Ontario, a friend and I ventured out into the pick-your-own strawberry field at Whittamore's Farm with suntan lotion, bottled water, and buckets in hand. We spent the morning crouched down in the field finding and plucking juicy red berries under a hot sun, and then went back to her house to make a strawberry dessert and divide up the leftovers. I don't remember exactly what we made, but it involved Cool Whip and it was delicious - ever since, this farm has been one of my favourite seasonal haunts.

I love approaching the 220 acre farm entrance and seeing the acres of fields teeming with fresh produce, the family activity area, and of course, the market with a large assortment of seasonal hanging baskets and flowers out front.

I'm finding it increasingly important to learn the stories behind the food that we eat. Talking to farmers and brothers Frank and Mike Whittamore, in addition to becoming extremely hungry, I wanted to absorb the challenges, the inspiration, and the passion that comes along with growing food. They took over the farm in the 1980s, but the farm has been in the family since 1804. The Lapp family registered and cleared the land, and grew mixed crops 200 acres. From the early 1920s to the 1950s, Frank J. Whittamore sold vegetables door-to-door in North Toronto. Frank's son Gilbert bought a 50 acre farm on Steeles Avenue in southeast Markham, and married Evelyn Lapp.

The pick-your-own farm started in the 1950s and was one of the first in Ontario (if not in Canada), and is still one of the largest. Pick-your-own operations had their heyday in the 1960s and 70s, and they deserve a resurgence. You can have a true farm-to-table experience by picking your own strawberries, raspberries, and a variety of vegetables.  In the fall they even have varieties of berries available, along with tomatoes, peppers, and of course, pumpkins.

Inside the market are the Whittamore's own and other local farms' vegetables and fruits, all very reasonably priced and often better looking than large grocery store finds - where even locally grown produce can be a little worse for wear after trucking through central distribution centres.  It's nearly impossible to resist perusing the jams, chutneys, dressings, marinades, maple syrup and pies in the bake shop.


Over the years they have expanded to offer group tours and Whittamore's Fun Farm Yard, with farm animals, a sand toy lot, tree fort, barn bouncer, pedal tractor track, mazes and more. Their Pumpkinland opens the last full weekend of September and runs through the month of October. The family activities help make Whittamore's a destination, and kids love it. There's no question that experiencing farms in a fun way is one of the best ways to teach kids about making educated food choices. However, it does make me think that there's perhaps a larger issue reflected here… would their market (and similar ones) do as much business without family activities attracting visitors?  

Next time I go I'll also be armed with some recipes to try with my purchases when I get home. Maybe one of these…Anna Olson's Three-Bean Salad, or Laura Calder's Cherry Tart...

Whittamore's Farm is open daily.

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Whittamore's Farm
8100 Steeles Ave. E.
Markham, ON
(905) 294-3275

Bazaar's Market posts are featured every Monday.

By Christine Stewart

Posted: Mon, Aug 11 2008 by Anonymous
Filed under: Ontario, Toronto, Markets

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