Farm to Table/Stone to Wall
Dry Stone Canada is pleased to announce that we are going back to Amherst Island for our 2018 festival. Our host is Topsy Farms, a long established sheep farm well known for their quality sheep, wool, and wool products. Using stone collected from the property, we will be building a 80-100 foot mixed granite/limestone wall near the barn, along the entrance to the farm.
Farm to Table/Stone to Wall celebrates the roots of dry stone walling: building walls to support farming. Our 2018 theme highlights the interconnection between local food and farmers and dry stone walling craft and tradition.
As always, the festival is a mix of international guests, Dry Stone Canada members, local supporters, and our walling community (hover over the festival tab in the menu for more info).
The general public is welcome!
Saturday Sept 29:
8:30am – Land acknowledgement and blessing with Paul Carl
Walling until 12noon
Walling resumes 1pm-430pm
Sunday Sept 30:
9am – Walling begins!
2pm – Brief speeches and thank yous
4:30pm – Finish
*Wallers and Volunteers, you will receive an email on additional Friday and evening activities through our Hospitality Coordinator.
Visit the farm to watch the wall be built over the weekend, see the progress of our carving workshop, check out our on-site displays, family-friendly activities including a children’s building area, weaving demonstration, and craft vendors! Visit the lambs, The Wool Shed, the Three Sisters garden on the farm, and find out more about dry stone walling and stone craft. The Back Kitchen, a local volunteer-run restaurant on the Island close to the ferry dock, will be open.
We also offer two workshops as part of the festival (beginner/intermediate level; advance registration required).
- Sept 29-30 Walling Workshop
Help build the festival wall with a mix of instruction and work with skilled wallers
- Sept 29-30 Stone Carving Workshop – workshop now full!
Stone carving with Danny Barber of Smith & Barber – Sculpture Atelier Inc.
There’s a lot going on over the weekend! A program schedule and guide will be posted soon.
Information on local attractions, directions and ferry schedule, and the walls of Amherst Island is further down on this page.
Information for wallers helping with the build is also further down (keep scrolling to Ways to Contribute).
Special Guests will include:
- David F. Wilson, UK: Artist, designer, stone carver, waller, Churchill Fellow
- Members of Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland (DSWAI)
- Brendan Stewart, Ontario Landscape Architect (OALA), and professor at University of Guelph Department of Landscape Architecture
- Nick Aitken, Master craftsman with Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA/UK)
- Danny Barber, Stone carver, co-founder of Smith & Barber Sculpture – Atelier Inc based in Ottawa
Thank you to our sponsors and supporters!
Maps & Ferry Schedule
More about Amherst Island’s dry stone walls and the area!
- Ontario Heritage Trust article on Amhert Island’s dry stone walling legacy
- Neilson Store Museum & Cultural Centre overview of 2015 Festival including Rick Mercer’s visit, and Andrea Cross and Dry Stone Canada’s Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Heritage Excellence in Conservation
- Heritage Kingston video (12 mins) of our 2017 festival at St. Mark’s Anglican Church near Kingston, a heritage restoration project with the Village of Barriefield
- Visit the Sand Beach Wetlands Conservation Area
- Visit Owl Woods and other birdwatching spots (.pdf by Kingston Field Naturalists)
- Dry Stone Canada newsletter on 2017 heritage builds & workshops
Ways to Contribute
The Topsy Farms 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.