This week we talked to Oliver from The Bee Shop and Betsy and Omar from P & H Farms.
The Bee Shop
Oliver from the Bee Shop was a late-comer to the market, but has quickly become one of our most popular vendors each Tuesday. I learned so much about bees and their many uses from our chat last at the market.
Michelle: Oliver, I would love to hear some things about bees that aren’t widely known to the public.
Oliver: The bee is a creature of love. They help nature to make love.
Michelle: Awe! That’s a nice way of looking at their connection with nature.
Oliver: Our food is made with love by the bees. The fruits and vegetables that are pollinated by bees have close to a 60% higher yield. The fruits and vegetables are large, well formed, flavourful, and made with love. This is a wonderful service the bees perform for us.
Michelle: Agreed. They’re so integral in our food system and ecosystems.
Oliver: So at The Bee Shop we have royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis (which boosts health and the immune system), bees wax, and flame of the bees wax candle, it is as close to pure sunlight as you can get.
Michelle: Really? That’s so interesting. Good for vitamin D. And you have them for sale here – that’s great.
Oliver: Yep. So the bees harvest from the flowers and store their honey in the bees wax.
Michelle: You can eat the bees wax too can’t you?
Oliver: Yes you can, it is very good for you, because of the propolis in it, it absorbs heavy metals and toxins in your body and helps to purify your body. You can chew it like chewing gum and spit out the wax.
Michelle: Do you source from hives from around the area?
Oliver: Most from ours in Etobicoke. We’re partnered with the Toronto bee keepers co-op, and we have some from Downsview park and Blackcreek Fields.
Michelle: So you have a great network of people within the city.
Oliver: Yes, on Tuesdays here we have soap, body lotion, shampoo, candies, honey vinegar – one of the members of the co-op makes that one, its excellent for salads.
Michelle: And the honey that has flavour to it – for example the blueberry honey actually tastes like blueberries – is that because the bees have fed off of the blueberry flower?
Oliver: Yes, in beekeeping you’ll name the honey after the flower if there are 50% or more of those flowers in the area.
Michelle: That’s really interesting. I wasn’t aware that the flower that they feed from determines the flavour of the honey, and there’s so much you can do with honey! It’s so great to have you at the market Oliver.
Oliver: Well thank you.
Michelle: Have a great day, we’ll see you soon!
P & H Farms
Betsey and Omar from P & H Farms have a wide variety of produce and baked goods at the market each week. This week, we got to talk about the evolution of their farming and their business.
Michelle: Hi Betsey! We know at P&H farms you provide fresh fruits and veggies and baked goods. Which was your original focus when you started?
Betsy: We started with the farm with the vegetables.
Michelle: And you have your own farm?
Betsy: Yes we have several farms actually. That’s why we’re called P & H Farms, plural.
Michelle: What does P & H stand for?
Betsy: It’s from our surnames. We’re from Port Hope, and a lot of people associate the name with our location, so that works for us.
Michelle: Yeah! Works both ways. Great. So you started with the veggies, and how did you get into baking?
Betsy: Well, Omar, my partner was thinking that – of course – in the winter time farmers have nothing to do, so he thought let’s start a bakery to tide us over in the winter. So we opened a bakery in Port Hope, that’s where we produce all the baked goods for the bakery and the market. We originally intended it to be half vegetables and half baked goods, conceptually like a grocery store, a one stop shop. It didn’t quite work out that way because people wanted a bakery/café, so that’s what it has become. We do coffee, lattes, teas, salads, quiches, and all that.
Michelle: What is the café called in Port Hope?
Betsy: Marche 59. We’re open Thursday to Sunday.
Michelle: The rest of the time you’re doing farmers markets then?
Betsy: Tuesdays we’re in Cabbagetown. Wednesdays we’re at a market in the north end of Kensington Market, at College and Bellevue. Thursdays we’re at the Toronto Botanical Garden, and we also run the café at the garden, which is open every day of the week, May through to October. We have staff the run the shop in Port Hope and the café at the garden.
Michelle: This is quite an operation you folks have! I wasn’t aware you had so many projects happening, that’s amazing.
Betsy: Yep. And then on Saturdays and Sundays we’re at Evergreen Brickworks, and also on Sundays we do Leslieville Farmers Market.
Michelle: So you do almost all of the markets in the city – you two are very busy!
Betsy: It’s nice that we do so we can keep everything fresh. If we don’t sell everything one day we know it will sell very quickly somewhere else.
Michelle: That’s really nice. So you and Omar have been doing this for how long?
Betsy: Since 1996. People started coming to us for the red clover, the demand started growing. We were surprised when people were interested in buying the flower, which we didn’t even know there was a market for the flower. Then we moved to gain our certified organic certificate. After working with the red clover, Omar was very interested in producing his own grains for baking, a complete integration between the farming and the baking.
Michelle: Now you are literally producing everything from the ground up. That’s really wonderful Betsy.
Betsy: Yes, literally everything from the ground up!
Michelle: Well I’m thoroughly impressed by what you two have accomplished. Looking forward to seeing you again next week!