Pauline and Eric O’Brien are skilled at raising things: crops, cattle, pigs, chickens and children. Yes, they have 9 kids and Pauline, who manages the farm with her family is up and working from 6am till dark. Eric often works away from home in his profession as a Steam Fitter, along with 2 of their sons who live in the adjacent farm so farm chores fall to Pauline and the remaining family at home.
As Organic farmers the O’Briens raise all their crops and livestock using strict organic methods. That means that they do not use chemicals on their crops, all feed is raised without chemicals and the animals themselves are not given antibiotics or any other chemical medicines. If antibiotics are required, the meat from those animals is no longer allowed to be sold as organic. The O’Briens have been farming organically since 1995, learning from Pauline’s sister who farmed in Stratford. Living in their current farm in Cameron, Pauline related how the first year was spent fixing the barn and making hay; their crops weren’t sprayed simply because the family couldn’t afford to buy the chemicals. Then they heard that Thompson’s in Pontypool were taking organic wheat and soybeans and were giving seminars on organics so Pauline and Eric attended the seminars and educated themselves on how to rotate their crops and feed the soil to maintain healthy plants.The animals and their feed and produce is monitored closely by Pro-Cert who authorize the organic designation. Records are kept on each individual animal, noting what the cattle are fed, how pregnant animals are fed, notes on baby animals, how much access the animals have to the outdoors and on all crops grown for food for animals and humans. All adult cattle are kept outdoors and the calfs spend the day outside while sleeping in the barn at night as a protection from predators.
As the head of a large, healthy family Pauline grows as much food as possible to feed her family and she extends that to the meat and produce she sells at the Bobcaygeon Farmers’ Market and at the farm. She strongly believes that healthy food is connected to peoples’ health. Beef has been the mainstay of her fare at the Farmers’ Market, along with chickens, turkeys and ducks occasionally on offer. This coming season for the first time the O’Briens will be selling pork products. The first batch of their Berkshire Pigs – a heritage breed – will soon be ready. Pauline heard about the breed when they had a chef working with them, Berkshire Pigs have excellent qualities that pork lovers look for, good marbling and great flavour, and they are an outdoor pig, essential for organic meat. The O’Briens have built good relationships with neighbours and others in the food production business. They believe in supporting local business and have found a lot of support from Len and Patty Thurston from the Butcher Block in Lindsay. Ron Hall Meats in Cresswell makes their sausage and smoke their meats and they cooperate with local farming families, including local Mennonite farmers such as the bakery and sawmill, often trading welding for their services.
Pauline takes her meat to the Bobcaygeon Farmers’ Market in frozen form and the meat is kept in a freezer on site. Pauline is often asked to keep purchased meat items in her freezer while customers browse the market. Popular cuts are high end steaks for the barbecue such as Tenderloin, Ribeye and Porterhouse, popular sausage flavours are Spicy Italian, Oktoberfest and Honey Garlic. Always on the lookout for new product, Pauline is introducing frozen Duck Pies as well as the pork products mentioned earlier. Pauline is one of the founding members of the Bobcaygeon Farmers’ Market and is at the market every week during the season. During the winter and when the market is not operational customers can contact the O’Briens at (705) 887-3974 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to place orders.