The Garlic Store at The Fat Rooster Farm in Victoria Harbour is Simcoe County’s newest organic farm.
Jay and Karen Honan received certification on July 6 after a more than three-year process of inspections, surprise inspections and extensive paperwork.
The farm grows and sells 75 varieties of garlic. All are grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.
“A lot of what we try to do in certifying organic is to leave the land in better shape than when you started,” said Jay.
On the 40 hectare (100-acre farm), about 4 ha (10 acres) is dedicated to growing garlic, but only 0.8 ha (two-acres) is cultivated in any year.
“We use a lot of crop rotation and crop cover so nothing grows in the same place year after year,” said Karen.
In between garlic crops, cover crops include oats, buckwheat and clover. The crop is plowed under in the fall to feed the soil.
“We build the soil quality every year,” Jay said. The farm has sandy loam soil, which is excellent for growing garlic.
The Honans have one of the few organic garlic farms in Canada.
The market in recent years has been swamped by Chinese garlic, but Ontario garlic is making a comeback, said Jay.
“Garlic is a very interesting crop to grow,” he said, adding that very few people know that there are so many different types.
“It’s interesting to share that with people,” said Karen.
Sales are done predominately from the farm itself.
“We really do want people coming here to the store,” he said.
From the barn where the harvested garlic hangs, about 25 varieties at any time are stocked in the farm store.
Jay recommends people try one and return for another.
“We have garlics that are better to eat raw, some that are hot and spicy and some are better for roasting. We can suit any taste.”
Specialty garlic products include smoked garlic and black garlic. Garlic spreads are sold in jars. Flavours include blackberry and dark chocolate.
The Fast Rooster Farm also sells Eastern white cedar planks from its sawmill, charcuterie boards and fresh and dried flowers.
Jay has been growing garlic for 20 years and has owned the farm since 2001. He has always been growing in the organic fashion, but now he can prove it.
“It’s safety for the consumer. It’s proof of how we grow,” Karen said.
Other growers can say they don’t use pesticides but then use chemical fertilizers, said Karen.
The Honans use tractors to work the land, but do all the weeding and harvesting by hand.
They have recently acquired a yearling Clydesdale that they plan to train to plow the soil when it gets older.
The 1525 Reeves Rd. farm store is open to the public Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is open mid-week by appointment.