Preserving food and preserving the land

Have you been enjoying our popular “Country Flavour” jarred peaches and wondering who does the work to can those delicious “Baby Gold” peaches?  Melinda and Edna Brubacher are the young women who started Country Flavour in 2008 and who keep Reesor’s supplied with jarred applesauce, cherries,  chili sauces and other preserves.  Their home with its separate, small-scale commercial cannery is located in Ariss in Wellington County near to the town of Elmira in Waterloo County.

The Brubachers have already been busy this summer canning beets, zucchini, and asparagus and are now starting cucumber pickles.  Most of the food they preserve comes from their own or their parents’ garden and other farmers in their area. Their busiest time is still coming when the three sisters and three other friends will be canning peaches in the very warm and steamy cannery.

Edna is happy in her work. “I enjoy making all of the different products for our customers and I like working with my sister Melinda,” she says.  She’s also pleased that another sister is now working with them too.

Because they preserve local produce it means they have to can or freeze the fruits and vegetables during the Ontario growing season, but the Country Flavour kitchen is busy year-round. In the winter they use the frozen fruit to make jams and jellies and to make their very popular pickled eggs.

With so much supermarket food now imported from the US or China, Reesor’s believes that it’s important to keep demand high for peaches and other fruits and vegetables from the Niagara Region and other parts of Ontario.  This can help maintain land for agriculture and keep small-scale businesses such as Country Flavour viable supplying Ontarians with locally grown and preserved food through the winter as an alternative to imported, out of season fruit.

Because Melinda and Edna are members of the Old Order Mennonite church they don’t own a car or truck to deliver their jars of preserves.  Salome, the manager of Reesor’s Market & Bakery, drives   to Country Flavour a few times a year to pick up boxes of preserves to bring back to to Stouffville.  Salome enjoys the journey to Ariss going along the back roads and seeing the tidy farms and gardens of the Old Order Mennonite families.  She likes visiting Edna and Melinda because they are such friendly and down to earth people.

The Country Flavour cannery is on the right.  A family member’s horse and buggy is waiting out front.

Old Order Mennonites are Christian, pacifist believers who have kept many traditional theological and lifestyle practices.  They do adapt technologies that are required by regulation and practicality, such as the Brubachers’ commercial kitchen equipment that would be the envy of most home-canners.

The cannery in the Country Flavour commercial kitchen.

Part of the beliefs of Old Order Mennonites includes not taking photographs of themselves, neither men nor women. So, we can’t share a photo of the sisters.

Next winter it will be like a breath of fresh summer air to be able to reach for a jar of Country Flavour preserves and know that it comes from Ontario and the careful work of Edna, Melinda, their family and other Ontario growers.
Woolwich, Waterloo and Wellington Counties have many interesting and scenic areas.  Here are links to some of the highlights and a link if you are interested in knowing more about Old Order Mennonites.

West Montrose Covered Bridge

Woolwich County & Waterloo Cycling Tours

Woolwich County & Waterloo Driving Tours

Overview of beliefs & practice of Old Order Mennonites

Merrylynd Organic Farm

Farmer Peter Leahy, one of our beef producers, comes from one of the oldest farming families in Ontario. His family has been farming in the Lakefield area for the past 200 years.

Today, he runs Merrylynd Farm, a fully organic and GMO-free farm and mill in Lakefield, Ontario. Peter has been growing organic grains and producing organic beef and chicken since 1998. He made the switch to organics because he believes it makes good sense for the environment and for the community.
Peter suspects his cattle are truly happy, roaming outdoors all year round. In the summer, his herd of Angus Brown cows and bull have their own off-farm holiday at a secluded organic grass pasture to graze and breed.

We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Merryland Farms, selling their organic beef for almost a decade and offering a selection of their frozen steaks, roasts, and ground beef. We can vouch for their beef firsthand – we make our Shepherd’s Pie with it. And if you have eaten their stewing beef and wonder how it’s so tender? It’s cut from sirloin steak. Try it and taste the difference from Ontario’s Merrylynd Farms.

Producer Profile – Charlie Welsh


Charlie Welsh of Scotland, Ontario is one of our asparagus producers.

By now, you’re probably craving fresh-from-the-field Ontario vegetables on your plate – and at last, you can have your fix with the first crop of Ontario asparagus. At Reesor’s, we eagerly anticipate the first stalks of asparagus because it kicks off the Ontario growing season, which we always wait for.

At Reesor Farm in Markham we specialize in growing strawberries, sweet corn, and other vegetables.  So we count on farmer Charlie Welsh and other farmers from Norfolk County to grow asparagus for us.  Last week Charlie and his partner (and uncle) Peter Welsh harvested their first crop of asparagus, and as he sees with every harvest, the arrival of spring’s first vegetable is greeted with smiles. “When I bring asparagus to market every year, people are very excited. I’m happy to be growing something that people get excited about,” says Charlie.

The Welsh family has been growing sweet corn since the 1930s and started growing asparagus in 1989. On the shores of Lake Erie, Norfolk County has been an ideal growing location for asparagus because of its sandy loam soil.  Since his father retired in 2007, Charlie has been farming in partnership with his uncle Peter Welsh.

“The most challenging part about growing asparagus is like any crop, you are at the mercy of the weather,” says Charlie. “If it’s cold, it stops them from growing.  If it’s hot they grow too quickly and we can’t keep up with the picking.”

His tips for home gardeners who want to plant asparagus:   “Make sure your soil is well-drained and well-weeded.  It’s tricky weeding asparagus, so this is one of the challenges of raising it.”

Did you know?

• Asparagus can grow so fast during very warm weather that pickers go through the fields twice a day to harvest them before they get too large

• Under ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 10″ in a 24-hour period

• A well-cared for asparagus planting will generally produce a crop for about 15 years without needing replanting