Farm to Table/Stone to Wall
Dry Stone Canada is pleased to announce that we are going back to Amherst Island for this years festival. Our host is Topsy Farm, a long established sheep farm well known for their quality sheep (especially the wool!). Using stone collected from farms and fields on the island, we will be building a wall near the barn, along the entrance to the farm.
The general theme of the event is about the roots of dry stone walling: building walls to support farming and to celebrate the interconnection between local food and farmers.
And, as is the case on Amherst Island, much of the community will be involved:
- accommodations will be available from many of the island residents
- food (local produce) will be served at the island’s Back Kitchen
- events will be held at The Lodge (Dry Stone Canada’s unofficial home base)
More details will come as arrangements are finalized but what we can tell you is this:
Special Guests will include:
- Sunny Wieler, waller, sculptor, and former President of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Ireland (DSWAI)
- David Wilson, artist – designer – waller – maker
- Brendan Stewart, Ontario Landscape Architect, University of Guelph
Wallers from far and wide will come together to build this wall, and it will also be a workshop for those wishing to learn about the trade. Those enrolled in the workshop will work alongside seasoned wallers.
The Topsy Farm Vibe
Topsy Farms wool comes from a well-cared for flock of over 1100 breeding sheep that are protected from predators by large white guardian dogs and a predator resistant fence around the home farm. Developed through careful breeding, the flock grazes on tree-shaded pastures of Amherst Island at the eastern end of Lake Ontario.
Topsy is a cooperative family farm. Those who work and live here deeply care about and respect the environment they live in. The sheep are raised as naturally as possible. No growth hormones are used. Their own rhythms are followed, birthing in spring following the directions of their bodies, not the dictates of the market. No pesticides are broadcast on our land.
Following the lead of those who farmed here before us, we maintain wide hedgerows and use selective cutting practises in our wood lot. We have planted several new hedgerows and plan to add more in years to come.
The abundance of field mushrooms in years when there is enough rain indicates that our land is slowly increasing in organic matter. This is a sign of good stewardship, as the original soil is very thin.
When our on-farm store The Wool Shed was to be torn down for road widening, we managed as an extended family to build our new one, thanks to lots of community support.
We have four homes and four gardens. They provide fruit, herbs and vegetables for us and our friends, and occasionally for barter. We created a network of gardeners on the Island to contribute to Loving Spoonfuls, which supplies fresh food to shelters, pantries and food programs in Kingston and our gardens contribute to that. They also provide a feast for the eyes and for the masses of birds and clouds of butterflies that temporarily call our place home as our environment improves. We’ve planted hedgerows and yards to attract and nourish them – we even have a certificate as a “Monarch Butterfly Way Station”and give away free seeds in spring for nectar and host plants for bees and butterflies.
We participate in many community activities designed to foster an understanding of the relationship between animals, people and the land. We’ve produced and edited The Beacon, the Island newspaper for almost 40 years until the summer of 2016. It is free and available to all on-line on the Amherst Island Official Web Site. We were instrumental in organizing the community-supported restaurant, The Back Kitchen.
We’ve hosted schools, 4-H members, home school families, special learning groups, and workshops for professors and graduate students from the Environmental Studies program at Queen’s University, Kingston. We have contributed produce for traditional medicines made at Tyendinaga Mohawk Reserve. We make sock scarves with donations to the Downie/chaney fund for residential school survivors.