McIntosh Farms

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Farming is on both sides of Erin McIntosh’s family. Her husband Shawn’s parents are farmers and her own father runs a commercial pork operation, but the fact that McIntosh Farms produces grass-fed and pasture-raised meat and eggs makes for an interesting family dynamic – one that represents two solitudes of animal husbandry.

“My father comes here and sees our pigs out on the grass and says, ‘Put those pigs inside. They’re going to wreck your pasture!'” Erin says.

But free-roaming pigs rooting about and snuffling on pasture is entirely the point of McIntosh Farms. The 50 acres in Atwood, Ontario, on the border of Huron County, is home to 25 head of grass-fed cattle, as well as sheep, pigs, hundreds of ducks and chickens and guinea fowl.

“We just love animals,” she says. Within that declaration is a soft-spoken and genuine sense of pride in the way they farm and the care with which they do it.

A dynamo who oversees farm operations and a butcher shop in Listowel at the same time she is a mother to four young children, McIntosh describes Perth County as “a hub for food and farmers.” The farm switched to a grass-fed program in 2012, and growth was steady.

They started at Stratford’s Slow Food Market five years ago, and, over time, awareness of what they were doing with their livestock drew attention, including that of the students at the Stratford Chefs School.

“I’ve met many Stratford Chefs School students at the market. They will leave for some time after they’ve graduated and get some experience in Toronto, but they often come back. I will see them a year or two later, and they will want to use our products,” she says.

In 2015, when the Stratford Chefs League, which includes many Stratford Chefs School graduates, held a “Call to Farms” at McIntosh Farms (Terry Manzo’s photo, above), their reputation grew. “That just opened the floodgates,” McIntosh says.

The metaphor, however, is not one of an uncontrollable force; rather, she smiles at the thought of it. “I find it’s really easy. The chefs are straightforward and I’m straightforward, so I really enjoy the relationships.” The next step in the relationship – the culinary part – is what ends up on the plate. “The chefs take something that we have produced and make something spectacular to eat. They pay it homage.”

For more about Perth County producers and chefs, visit Farm to Table.

[Banner image/Terry Manzo]

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