OWNER, LANDMAN GARDENS AND BAKERY
FARMER, BAKER, HOSTESS
It took a few days for Rebecca to call me back for our chat, because she’d just had 150 babies and was little overwhelmed. Baby goats, yes, but they still need a lot of mothering, and when you add them to the pigs, calves, chickens, turkeys and sheep already needing attention… plus the baking… and the vegetable gardens… and running the magical Blackhouse dinners… it makes for a life that she can only describe as “awesome.”
There’s busy, there’s real busy, then there’s farm busy.
Winter is slower, but summer I have the vegetable garden, three farmers’ markets a week, and CSA pickups (Community Supported Agriculture, a program whereby consumers pay a one-time fee and receive weekly boxes of freshly picked farm-raised food for a set time that they pick up at various outlets), so every day is different. Plus we wholesale baking and preserves, a company in Orangeville buys pastries from us. And of course, there’s the farm dinners, we have at least 17 booked for summer already, last fall we were up to three a week. So I guess, yeah, we’re busy!
But something tells me you love being hands-on…
I don’t want to become a manager, I want to be in the kitchen and at the markets. It definitely doesn’t feel like work, it feels like accomplishing something. Like with the baby goats, how well they’re doing, how much milk they’re producing. It’s a really feel-good time of year.
My dad jokes that he had six kids so we could work. Dad’s business on the farm is the goats, which my younger brother is spearheading at the moment. My business is the dinners, the vegetable gardens and the kitchen. Carter and Jesse are doing co-ops but help on the farm lots. They’ll probably all end up working in agriculture but not necessarily on this farm, we only have 80 acres so it’s hard to split it that many ways. My sister and her boyfriend milk cows on his parent’s farm, and they’re really big on making dairy their thing. My older brother just opened his own landscaping company.
Almost fifty years on that land…
In 1969 my grandparents bought the farm. My dad and mum offically took it over in ’97, but dad was in the barn since he could walk. My grandparents emigrated from Holland in the ’50s with the typical story of a hundred dollars and a suitcase, so they started working at other farms. It was definitely a hard life for them. Most immigrants that come over work for room and board, so it’s hard to start making money to buy your own property.
The Blackhouse: was that your dad’s dream, as a dry-waller?
It was built in 2009, but we didn’t start hosting dinners until 2013. My dad does dry-walling for a living. Retaining walls, artistic features, all kinds of different things… some take a few days, some a few months.
The Blackhouse is the only replica of an authentic Blackhouse in Canada, perfect dimensions and all. My parents and another couple went to Scotland in 2009 and saw Blackhouses and said, this is so cool, we’ve got to build one of these! One location fell through and then my dad offered up our property.
When people walk into the Blackhouse what do they say?
A lot of people think they’ve gone back in time. People are generally surprised because it seems small, but when you step inside it’s huge. When the table’s set beautifully and the candles are lit it’s a great atmosphere. People who have seen us online come from all over to check it out. They want our real food, and they want to hear our real stories. The other night I told them what it’s like trying to actually load pigs for the butcher and it had them in tears laughing. They don’t believe our lives are actually like that sometimes!
Do you still get excited when your crops come up?
Oh yeah, it’s so awesome. At the end of February I get this tiny box of seeds, maybe as big as three or four shoeboxes, and by summer I have enough vegetables growing to feed forty families.
We stagger stuff and plant every week for the CSA, half of our customers pick up on the farm, then the other half I drop off in peoples’ driveways in Orangeville from 5-6, here’s your box, see you next week! People always look at me weird selling vegetables out of the trunk of my car.
It’s a really cool feeling. Once the peas are ready, they can barely make it back to the kitchen because they taste so good!