Dear Dad, thank you for connecting me to my food source...
After Mother's Day this year, I was reflecting on Father's Day (the Australian one, in Canada, Father's Day is in June!). With the Aussie Father's Day upon us, both hubby and I have taken some time to reflect on the roles our Dad's had in forming our world of food!
Spring and Summer in my childhood was all about fresh food. Living in Canada, there was 6-8 months where you could grow food easily without fear of frost and snow damaging the food. My Mom was the foodie, who LOVED preparing food from scratch (and doing it well!), you can read more on my Mom and how her love for food shaped me here.
My Dad, he was the gardener, being the son of a farmer, he knew how important it was to have a garden in the yard, after all he grew up on big farm growing enough food to feed their family of 16 (and their community)! As soon as there was a hint of Spring in the air, he would be getting seedlings ready to plant in the garden, timing planting was super important as sometimes there would be a late frost that would damage the sensitive seedlings. My memory of this massive garden each year is so fond, where a large portion of our fresh veggies each Spring/Summer/Fall were sourced straight from our patch. From eating fresh from the bush Raspberries in our breakfast each morning, and pickling the bean harvest for eating later in the year - the warmer months were all about planting, harvesting and storing! It was a family affair, we were foodies before the word foodies was #hashtagged.
The experience of watching my Dad go through this process every year (and even watching him get super excited about heading home to plant his garden in Canada after visiting me this year!), preparing the beds, the seedlings and caring for them every day, taught me the importance of the food we ate every day. His effort and labour was enjoyed after every harvest, each bite tasted so much better knowing it came from OUR garden! It's the same giddy excitement I get today when I harvest from my garden - I can make a delicious salad that is literally MINUTES old from harvest!
I want to thank my Dad (and my Grand-père and Grand-mère) for dedicating his time, energy and love into our garden, I'm not sure he realised at the time what effect it would have on me. Both Mom and Dad are with me every day I share my knowledge and passion around good food and good health.
My Dad was the son of a horseman, someone who worked with horses and cattle through his youth, his world was all about food, whether it was delivering packages to customers or learning to prepare meals. A baby-boomer and a son of a POW, Dad was raised in a world of growing your own food, and knowing where your food comes from. Big supermarkets hadn't taken hold in towns, and you shopped at the local grocer, local butcher and local buttery. Being raised in this world must have planted a seed for Dad, for when he returned to his home region to become a school teacher, he started growing grain and running cattle. Dad, the teacher/farmer continued his journey of teaching during the week and farming on the weekend, raising his family on a farm, and sharing the love of the land with his kids. It was his escape, his passion project, I knew that after seeing him persevere through droughts and ensuring we understood what farming was all about.
My first memory of living on a farm is watching Dad plant and harvest corn (he used to supply Kelloggs for their corn flakes!) - this tradition continued for decades every Christmas. Sitting on a corn planter was our rite of passage - Christmas Eve (and sometimes Christmas morning) had us planting the summer corn, ready for harvest come Autumn the next year. We ran cattle on our farm too, learning to be around farm animals is something that sticks with me too, such beautiful animals who personified the struggle of farming (particularly at this time of year, where it is COLD and DRY).
Our connection to food was ever present, it was our jobs as kids, we didn't get part time jobs, each weekend was full of working on the farm. Whether it was the food raising bit, or fixing fences or harvesting grain - it was a huge shock to move to the big city and meet people who had never even seen a COW in real life! Each university holidays had me back at home, working away, Dad always saved up the big projects for this time, reminding me of my "city boy" hands when I got blisters whilst building fences...
My Dad probably didn't realise at the time, but living on a farm was an experience that formed his children in many ways. Whether it was the connection to the land, or just being willing to put in a massive day of sweat to complete a farm project, it has meant that we all developed a respect for what goes into farming. It even gave me the confidence to help start a farm in Northern NSW several years ago. Once a farm boy always a farm boy! Thank you Dad :)