Saturday, November 20, 2010

Adventures in local food: Our visits to the Royal Winter Fair

This post is really one week late, but this week has been a little nutty, filled with Foodland Ontario videos, babies who attack with scissors and appearances on Etsy’s front page

The Royal Winter Fair takes place in Toronto for 2 weeks every November.  I haven’t been for a few years; I think first year at OCAD was the last time Ryan or I went. I have such fond childhood memories though; the goats (I love goats), food coloured chickens, little pieces of wool, and butter sculptures.  This year did not disappoint, we actually went twice despite the steep entry price.  

We took the GO train. I’m so glad I figured out that this was the way to do it.  Only two stops, a 20 minute trip, lots of room for Rebecca to move around, a view of our old studio, and baby’s first train trip.

Like at the farmer’s market, what’s really great about the fair is talking to the farmers.  On our first visit, Rebecca and I nursed with a goat-farming mother of 3 whose baby wore a bib reading “in case on emergency, feed me goat’s milk”.  Surprisingly, there are few places to nurse a baby while surrounded by engorged show cattle.  We talked about goats, gardens and empathy for the cows.  I wish I had gotten the name of her farm.

We also had a nice chat with a farmer who explained that the big cattle auction was that night.  Everyone was in high gear getting the cows ready.  Cow hair spray remains a mystery.  He also wanted to make sure Rebecca liked cows milk but said you could eat fish instead of beef if you liked.  Hilarious.

On our second visit we asked another farmer about that night and he told us that 1000 farmers and their families drank $10, 000 worth of beer, stayed all night with the dairy cows and there was dancing on top on the stalls.  Some of these calves went for $20,000.

Here’s a photo of a cow named Becca.

We met up with some friends and went into the petting farm.  Rebecca used her excellent dog feeding techniques to befriend the goats.  She also ate quite a bit of the feed.  Seems she's outgrown her soy-intollerence.

She also really likes sheep. Like mother like daughter, and fibre artist grandmother.  These photos are from both visits.

Here are some brand new piggies.

We went upstairs and bought dinner; delicious little British pies and quiches from Simcoe Ontario, more Montforte Goat curds, lots of veggies and talked to some more farmers.  We visited the award winning jams (Congrats Sarah) and the Toronto bee keepers.  We bought some honey comb and raw honey with bee propolis.  Can anyone tell me about this?  I’ve never had it before and have just been putting it in my coffee.  It tastes like sunshine coming through a small dusty crack in a wooden cottage.  Deeply satisfying.

We also saw all the giant vegetables and I picked up two giant pumpkin seeds.  We’ll try them in the front this year.  Anyone want to do a giant vegetable grow-along?

Santa was there on our second visit, which was a nice touch.  He had a real beard and everything. All signs are pointing to Becca really being into Christmas.

On our way out, we let Rebecca have some hay time.   Her I love Dirt button was a nice touch, thanks Gayla. 

A farmer saw us a declared that we needed a cow.

I took a bunch of photos of these prize-winning goats with their teenagers in front of the CN tower on the way out.  I’d love to send a copy to them but can’t find an address or email, so if you know how to reach Frankhaven Goat Dairy from Tesswater Ontario, please send them my way.


  1. Too cute. Pictures to treasure. I have a great one of our Gift Child feeding a goat and asking: Is it good, goat? You never forget those moments, even years after.

  2. Awesome!! And truly fantastic pictures!!!

    Love the goats! :-)

  3. Oh Helen, that is heart warming. I have fabulous memories of chasing goat in New Brunswick too. Goats, an essential element of a happy childhood.