Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Friend of the Farm

Alas, today was the last Farmers' Market at Riverdale Farm for 2009. The growing season goes by so quickly. We will miss all of the dedicated vendors who come to sell their wares week after week, and look forward to welcoming them back in Spring. We are truly blessed with the bounty for some of the items available at the market included: honey, elk meat, chocolate, freshly baked breads, cheese, mushrooms, beignets, Belgian Waffles, jerk fish, fresh french fries tossed with sea salt and thyme, empanadas and of course - fresh and fabulous produce. These photos represent but a hint of the fruit and vegetables that can be found at the height of the season.

On the subject of the market and Farm, Bill is a volunteer who spends hours clearing the walking paths around Farm. He arrives via public transportation, makes his way through the neighbourhood, and arrives at the Farm, ready to work. He always has his work gloves, a few hand tools, plastic bags and a knee pad along with him. He has been doing this almost everyday for over for 12 years. The work is backbreaking and ongoing, debris is always accumulating on the paths - regardless of the season. Did I mention that Bill is eighty years old? I ran into him the other day as he was walking back from the Farm towards the bus stop. He told me that he was leaving earlier than he likes to because he had to get back and make dinner for his wife who had recently undergone open heart surgery.

Today was Bill's birthday, he had mentioned that the date was coming up a few weeks ago and I made a note of it in my calendar. I surprised him with a cake today. Not knowing Bill's preferences, or if any of the other people who help out at the Farm kitchen had nut allergies, I went with a carrot cake and a vanilla butter cream icing. As I gathered a few items to take over to the farm, I opened the cupboard where I have kept extraneous birthday party material from kids' parties gone by. I found the perfect hat, and one only; an inverted conical hat printed with a farm scene, complete with a sheep, a cow, a barn and a pig.

It seems that Bill is a habitual kind of man. He enjoys a milky tea served in a mug as he works, and then comes by the canteen for a sandwich and a refill of tea around 12:30. I nabbed him while he was finishing off his lunch, sitting outside at a picnic table on a glorious Fall day. Several of the people who work around the Farm joined in, Tim put the birthday hat on him and and we surprised Bill with a sincere rendition of "Happy Birthday" and the cake. He was very touched. We enjoyed the cake, passed out pieces to a few passersby and when everyone had had enough, I packed it up in a box so that Bill could enjoy the rest at home with his wife. I learned a few more things about Bill today, the most astonishing of which is that he travels one and a half hours on public transportation system to get to the Farm, and the same amount of time to get back! He's eighty, and a volunteer! He says that he enjoys volunteering at the Farm because he grew up in the country - and though there would be volunteering opportunities closer to home - they would not have the special feeling of the farm. He has recently cut back on his volunteering days, down to three to four, from six! When I left the Farm today, Bill was still wearing the hat and getting ready to go back to work. The next time you happen to be at Riverdale Farm and see a spunky octogenarian gentleman with a rake, say "hello" to him, for it could only be Bill.

Thanks to Brian Summers for the market photos, More information on the Farm can be found at

Next up on the blog menu - Halloween!

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