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The Solo Traveler Blog

Of Shakespeare and Pigs

photo, image, trees, lane

The de Martines Family Farm.

“You went to Stratford…and visited a pig farm?”

Stratford, Ontario is internationally known for one thing: The Stratford Festival. Every year, people travel from all over the world to see incredible productions of Shakespearean plays.

I, on the other hand, went to see pigs.

Much of my travel has been to urban centres. I love the excitement and possibility, the art and culture, the noise and movement of big cities. But I grew up in the countryside, walking through hayfields, collecting wild berries, swimming in the lake. And every once in a while, I long to get out into the country again.

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The farm tour began with a taste of Perth Pork sausage.

On a recent trip to Stratford, I did just that. Not only did I get out of the city, but I actually took a tour of the de Martines Family Farm.

Fred and Ingrid de Martines immigrated to Canada from Holland and set up a farm where they raise heritage breed pigs, including Tamworth and Berkshire. Fred is a swine specialist and in the early 90s, they added wild boar to their stock. At that time, there was no organized marketing in place, so they had to establish it themselves and create a market for their product.

They now sell their pork to high end restaurants, butchers, and directly to consumers from their little shop right on the farm.

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Getting up close and personal with a Tamworth piglet.

This is not the industrial pork that you find in supermarkets. This is pork as I remember it as a child, when the pigs were raised on small farms and allowed to roam freely in the fields. Pork with flavour and some fat. Pork that you pay more for, because the animals were raised with care, without hormones or antibiotics, and were not stuffed into an antiseptic barn, never to see the light of day. Pork you can feel good about because the family who brought it to you are actually making a good living feeding you and helping to save a Heritage breed. The Tamworth pig is on the Slow Food Canada Ark of Taste, a list of traditional foods that are at risk of extinction.

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Wild boar. Crunching very loudly on black walnuts.

I had never even been in the presence of a live pig before, so having the opportunity to hold a little Tamworth piglet was quite exciting, as was seeing wild boar for the first time. The de Martines family are happy to give tours of their farm to solo travelers. You don’t have to be part of a group tour, you just need to give them some advance notice, so they can schedule you in around their daily chores.

In a time when many of us are so disconnected from our food, seeing firsthand where it comes from, what makes it special, and meeting the people who grow or raise it, can deepen our appreciation for what is on our plates. You can do this wherever you travel by visiting farms, vineyards, farmer’s markets –  any place where real people are producing real food.


Thank you to the Stratford Tourism Alliance for making this trip possible.


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  • Ayngelina

    I can’t believe I missed this post!

    I think it’s fantastic that you have featured this farm. Yes for vegetarians eating meat will always be an issue but for meat-eaters we really need to be conscious eaters and it’s so important to find producers that raise happy animals and slaughter them as humanely as possible. I would love to visit this farm.

  • Tracey Nesbitt

    I appreciate your perspective, Patrick. We have had
    discussions about this here, as Janice is now a vegetarian, and I am a
    meat-eater (although I was previously vegetarian for close to a decade). Perhaps
    because of that, I am very concerned about the origins of my food. One of the
    reasons that I wanted to tell this story is that this farmer is operating on a
    small scale, treating the animals with great care, only selling locally, and
    raising the pigs without the use of hormones or antibiotics, in open fields, on
    natural feed. He is also helping to save the Tamworth breed from extinction. Given that many people do eat meat, I feel that this is a responsible way to do so, and I respect the manner in which he is raising his livestock and operating his business. Thanks very much for sharing your point of view.

  • Patrick MacKellan

    With all due respect, I can’t feel “good” about pork at all. Pigs are extremely highly intelligent animals and should never be killed for food under any modern circumstances. It is the height of manipulation, arrogance, and cruelty to cuddle a piglet knowing full well you are sending her to slaughter after a far too short life.

  • martizz

    what is common between Startford and the great Shakespeare ?- pig farm …. it’s so sad!
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  • Susan Ward

    Thanks for sharing this Tracey. Making an effort to know more about where my food comes from lately so it is nice to know more about this source practically in our backyard.

About Janice Waugh and Tracey Nesbitt

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.52.44 PMI'm an author, blogger, speaker and traveler. I became a widow and empty-nester at about the same time. And then, I became Solo Traveler... Here's the full story. >>
Tracey NesbittI’m a writer, editor, food and wine fanatic, and traveler. On my very first trip abroad I learned that solo travel was for me. Here's the full story. >>

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