Of Shakespeare and Pigs
“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.
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.
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.
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.