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Local Food Week in Ontario

​​​Blog originally posted ​June 4, 2018

Happy Local Food Week!  Simcoe County’s residents and visitors have been enjoying the local bounty for a very long time.  The Simcoe County Archives’ blog post this month provides an historical glimpse into some of the food that has been grown and/or harvested here.

There is archaeological evidence in Simcoe County that members of unknown Indigenous communities strategically sank wooden stakes into the waterbed of the Narrows between Lakes Couchiching and Simcoe more than 5,000 calendar years ago.  In the centuries immediately prior to the arrival of Europeans in 1650, members of the Huron-Wendat used the existing weirs, and added more to them.  The Mnjikaning Fish Weirs is now a national historic site.

More recently, residents and visitors have fished from shores, docks, watercraft, and through the ice of the county’s many bodies of water.

978-23 – Indigenous guides fishing from an unknown dock or pier
978-23 – Indigenous guides fishing from an unknown dock or pier – Copyright: Public Domain

Starting in the early to mid 1800s, European settlers cleared the lands, planted a variety of crops and fruit trees, including onions and apples, and then sold the harvest at local town markets.

986-50 – Field of onions on the Brown Farm, near what is now Barrie's Kozlov Centre
986-50 – Field of onions on the Brown Farm, near what is now Barrie’s Kozlov Centre – Copyright: Public Domain
979-76 – Archibald Currie apple picking in the early 1900s – Copyright: Public Domain

Beeton was so named when the community was granted a post office.  Postmaster David A. Jones was also a prominent beekeeper and publisher of The Canadian Bee Journal.

971-03 – The Canadian Bee Journal
971-03 – The Canadian Bee Journal – Copyright: Public Domain

Indigenous residents of Simcoe County taught European settlers how to gather sap from sugar maple trees and boil it down to a sweet syrup.  In 1849, more than 160,000 lbs (72,574 kg) of mapl​e suga​r was produced in Simcoe County. 

2016-25 – Gathering sap in Medonte Township
2016-25 – Gathering sap in Medonte Township – Copyright: Public Domain

In the 1920s, the Holland Marsh was drained to form a large area or fertile land suitable for the growing of a wide variety of vegetables destined for Ontario and foreign markets.

2008-56 – Potato picking in the Holland Marsh
2008-56 – Potato picking in the Holland Marsh – Copyright: Federal Farms Limited, used with permission

Simcoe County Council struck an Agriculture Committee in 1928 and it continued under various names until the 1980s, when its mandate was assumed by the Environmental Service Committee.  During the Second World War, the Council also created an Agricultural War Production Committee.  The aim of both committees was to promote the development and implementation of systems for agricultural improvements and sustainability in Simcoe County.  Minutes and reports for the historic committees of Simcoe County Council are available at the Archives.  You can search here for descriptions of the records.

Bon Appetit!


June 29, 2020. Links to the history of Beeton and farm markets in Simcoe County were updated, and a link to a list of local maple syrup producers was removed; the site is no longer available.