Originally written for Patti Foley’s Just Sayin’ Caledon
The Albion Hills Community Farm, tucked in the north west corner of Albion Hills Conservation Area. is one of the hidden gems in Caledon. The site of a former dairy farm in the area, the land has been reborn as a hub of local food production for the community.
Besides the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that supplies fresh produce to our Farmer’s Market or through food boxes that can be ordered by residents, the Farm also offers community gardens. These plots are rented every year by keen gardeners who prepare their plots with love and respect.
This year, as a result of caring for the Backyard Hens Pilot Program on site, I decided to take on a plot with the intention of growing some of the food needed for the chickens. It quickly evolved into much more than that when I saw the size of the strip I had rented. Besides the fresh food for the hens, and some traditional vegetables for the home table, I decided to honour the heritage of the land.
Not the very recent European arrivals after the War of 1812, but the thousands of years of hunting, trading and agriculture that were the history of the Mississaugas. To honour that culture, we now have a “Three Sisters” section of traditional Mandan Bride corn, Rattlesnake snap beans and squash. The wisdom here is that the corn grows tall, the beans climb the corn, and the squash leaves shield the ground to hold in the moisture. Under the surface an amazing symbiotic nutrient exchange takes place in the soil.
I would have planted a few smelt in each of our Three Sisters hills, but that tiny fish is one of the victims of colonial deforestation, agriculture, industrial pollution, overfishing and invasive species in the Great Lakes. Their decline is so concerning that one researcher has coined the phrase “smeltdown” to describe their vanishing act.
Instead we’ll be using Gaia Green organic fertilizer from the award winning Plant Paradise Country Gardens just down the road. In addition, a four winds medicine garden with the smudging herbs sage, sweet grass, cedar, and tobacco will provide us with a gift for my friend, Elder Garry Sault, when I see him at Lake Simcoe for the autumnal equinox. A traditional way of cleansing the community and the sins of our forebearers.
For now, I simply enjoy the culture of my fellow gardeners from around the world who now call Caledon their home. A community of people who share, work hard, tell good stories, and love the land. And they are really going to love our organic, Omega 3, free run eggs when the Farm Gate sales begin in a few weeks. We already have two dozen in the fridge from our 4 Golden Girls, and the Canadian Heritage Chanteclers will arrive at the end of the month to add to that production.
To help keep them in the best feed possible, I have rewritten the Mary Poppins song to read, “Feed the hens, toonie a day. Toonie, toonie, toonie a day …” with all proceeds from the royalties going to bird seed.
From 8,000 years ago when children collected wild bird eggs fast forward to 2018 in Caledon and children collecting our hen’s eggs, it’s still all about healthy local food and shelter and safety and community and respect for the land. We lost it for a while, but it sure is alive and well once again at Albion Hills Community Farm.
The way I see it.
Skid Crease, journalist