June 30, 2016
When I was seven years old I remember feeling that life truly wasn’t fair; other kids seemed to have more money and access to things I really wanted; patent leather shoes, sparkly dresses and glasses with rhinestones, and other store bought stuff: cookies, chocolate bars and things that looked just extraordinary to me. Why did I need to eat homemade oatmeal cookies when there were things like shake-a- puddin in the world.
So I took to shoplifting what I wasn’t getting at home, but I wasn’t very good at it; clumsy, paranoid and mostly equipped with a conscience that destroyed any pleasure that malted milk gave me. Needless to say after an excruciating process I took on a commitment to honesty that has been the code for my existence since. You can like or not like me but at least you never have to doubt that I have told you the truth.
One of the biggest discussions within Monforte is how transparent we should be in our communication; just how honest is honest enough. I think it’s an important discussion, so this letter has been the hardest thing I have needed to write in many years.
To the point at hand, Monforte has decided to reopen its CSA program. We ended up having a horrible year last year from a business perspective; an attempt at running a cheesemaking school that was well intentioned but disastrous, a sudden shortage of 4 different kinds of milk, and a huge learning curve of working under government protocols that suddenly seemed heavy handed, combined to create a year of loss both financial and perhaps more importantly emotional.
It leads to the question of whether Monforte’s existence is still useful for the world; or has this venture run its course and I need to be content and know I will never have glasses with rhinestones.
But we believe in the model of artisanal food and farming production too much to want to give up. We truly believe that our flexibility and tenacity are important and could be useful as a model for other artisans. Please allow us to keep trying to improve and evolve by helping us buy more milk and make more cheese and have more relationships with people like you.
In the meantime we are doing wonderful and exciting things; here is what we have going on this year:
- The farm is up and going with 4 farmers utilizing the first 5 acres. What a thrill it is to watch how beautiful the fields look and what a privilege to be part of that process. Please come check out the work by Vegiscape and A Still Small Farm; as well we are growing our own vegetables and flowers for the B&B and the restaurant and sweet potatoes for our own fries next season.
- The Airbnb on the farm is up and going and the apartment above the restaurant will be ready for reservations by the middle of July. Come see a show, stay with us, do a road trip with me or take a cheesemaking class. Perth is turning into a wonderful place to visit for food and farming as well as theater. The first grapes have just been planted for a winery across the road from the home farm; who knew in Perth County.
- Dairy tours; road trips; and cheesemaking classes will all be ready to go the middle of July at the latest. Keep an eye on the website.
- Monforte Farm store will be open by end of July; we really need your input on what you want to see in it and what we can produce for you. Dandelion elixers? Dried flower wreaths? David Martin’s pork?
- We have our first commercial colt (that’s a cross between a Clydesdale and a full hackney) and he’s named Abe Lincoln after my dad. I am working on milking Rosanna to look at the usefulness of mare’s milk within Monforte but Abe comes first. Also the clydes are being trained to plow so we can use them for the farm next year and perhaps even this fall for those sweet potatoes.
- We have reinvented our cheeses after having a huge shortage of sheep and water buffalo milks as well as cream for butter. We have developed a new stream of cow and goat milk products and are finally starting to feel confident in these new friends. (Our cheeses have been used this week at Casa Loma as well as the state dinner at Rideau Hall for the 3 amigos. What a privilege that is.) Thanks so much for a wonderful staff that are truly committed and working hard as well as the influence and wisdom of my sons and the flexibility of customers to move to alternate milks; what a year that was.
- The restaurant seems to have settled into what it should be; we want to be a place that people can drop in to or stay for a while. The food is casual and comfortable with a huge emphasis on cheese and charcuterie and things Tyler and James have cooked and preserved. And God bless Frances for being so steady and loyal and the finest example of service I know.
- And most importantly perhaps, with the help of a wonderful friend, Keith Meuller, and under Conestoga College we are going back to helping with a cheesemaking school starting this fall.
This isn’t an easy place to be on any level; it’s awful to need to start again digging out from under and reinventing. Emotionally it’s so hard to lick my wounds and get back on my feet once again but I believe tenacity is the most important tool for business owners, so I’m getting back on the horse. We hope that you will come into our community and be part of the fun and experiments (and always a bit of chaos).
Please join us on this journey; the CSA venture is open until December 31st this year and vouchers will be mailed out by end of January 2017. Lastly, our Hootinany party is booked for October 2nd this year at the Home Farm; all subscribers welcome.
To subscribe to our CSA program you can join online on our website www.monfortedairy.com or you can find a copy of the form at Monforte on Wellington.