Photo from Sarah Cavanagh
Once upon a time farms were founded and generations carried on the task of sowing the fields and milking the cows. Hay’s Shore, at the foot of the “Second Lake” on Mississippi Lake, was where iconic James Duff’s farm was located in the early 1840’s. William (Bill) Duff ran a farm and a retail dairy on the 11th line. Duff’s Dairy, as it was called, was later taken over and sold to John Hays in 1918.
Dairy farmers like Bill began milking at 6 a.m. by hand and the milk was then put into cans and taken down to the railway tracks from where it was transported. In later years, it was picked up at the roadside by truck. Mothers got up early to make breakfast for their husband and children, sent the children off to school, and then went off to help their husbands with the farm chores.
Those that raised poultry and eggs were always busy carefully loading their product into the back of their trucks in crates to bring to town to sell. When a batch of new chicks were born some of them would be raised as frying chickens for the summer Farmer’s Market. The woman of the house also added churning butter to her work-day list, also taking it to sell at the market or the general store.
If that wasn’t enough, throughout the summer and into the fall, the farm kitchen became a one–woman production line. Jars of pickles, jellies, fruit, and assorted vegetables, were canned to sell and for personal consumption–and there was nothing that went to waste. Not only was preserving food economical, but it also provided income for the family.
The food they raised or made either went to a “once a week” Farmer’s Market or a local “general store,” which carried a wide range of merchandise and was an important part of small towns. Not only did they offer food, and a complete array of general goods, the stores also served as a gathering place. The general store became an important location where locals could exchange news and gossip and even use the telephone. Everything in the general store was community made and some of these locally-made goods were also shipped to other parts of the county.
We may no longer have general stores, but our weekly Farmer’s Markets are still around. Through the years we have seen a lot of change in the way we market food from the farm. In the 1950’s there were still farmers’ markets, but they soon began to fade as more people began to use supermarkets for their family’s needs. But, like everything else, history began to repeat itself as people started to pay attention to food once again and a local food movement was resurrected. Just as days gone by we are still creating community around food, and if you ask any farmers today they would still rather cultivate their land then become King of the world.
Read it in Hometown News latest edition. Pick it up everywhere in Carleton Place, Smiths Falls, Almonte, Perth and other areas. Thanks Hometown News for caring!