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Moore Farms produces more than their landmark strawberry patch

Updated: May 31

For decades, locals around Ayr and Paris associated Moore Farms with strawberries. Their roadside strawberry field, located just off Pinehurst Road near the Pinehurst Conservation Area, became the go-to place for picked and pick-your-own (PYO) strawberries.

This seasonal crop remains a strong feature of the farm. But these berries only constitute a fraction of the farm’s total production.

The current fourth and fifth generations of Moore – consisting of Nancy, husband Alan and son Ethan -- grow feed grain, hay and cash crop soybeans on 1000 acres of owned and rented land. They raise a small herd of Texas Longhorns and finish off locally-purchased Black Angus stock.

Then, during the pandemic, Moore Farms opened a year-round farm store that is registered with Foodland Ontario.

Their annual crop list expanded to include sweet corn, shelling peas, beans, garlic, radish, zucchini squash and PYO pumpkins.

The family sources other, in-season vegetables from area farms, mainly from Norfolk County, as well as regional products such as meats, milk, eggs, milled flour, blueberries, baking, coffee, hazel nuts and gluten-free products.

The Moores divide the work load. Alan and Ethan handle the crops and livestock; Nancy, with a Scotland-area farm upbringing and 20 years of retail and management experience at Staples, tackles the marketing.

Their webpage states that Moore Farms – a Century Farm—has grown hay and feed grain since 1916. “We use the no-till farming method which we have adapted to our produce crops to help suppress weeds and keep our soil healthy,” it states.

This no-till adaption includes strip tillage between the vegetable rows, only tilling within a six to eight inch strip of soil between the seedbeds, said Ethan. “Vegetable seeds are not as vigorous as grain seeds. They require more optimal seed beds than grain crops.”

The retail expansion morphed from a “pandemic contact list” which Nancy created in order to sell food boxes online when the pandemic froze on-farm sales. Demand increased by word of mouth, social media, and Moore’s location on Pinehurst Road, which is a primary Brantford-to-Kitchener commuter route.

The family poured a cement floor in 2020 to create an open-air sales shed, enclosing it in 2022. They continue to add product, including meal bundles that can be ordered on line. And family members deliver to customers within a 30-kilometre radius.

Nancy rents a certified kitchen at a Paris church to create value-added products such as relishes, soups and prepared meals. Some recipes hail from Alan’s great-grandmother’s recipe box, since as “Marcella Moore’s Baked Beans.”

“People see the value,” said Nancy. “People are busy and these are prepared meals. They know that the ingredients come from here as much as possible; or else we use regional items, such as artisanal parmesan cheese. It’s not packaged foods that sat in a grocery chain warehouse.”

They have some staff, including a trained chef who assists in preparing the frozen meals, and use a social media professional in Ayr to handle publicity. While the family traditionally hires local, seasonal labour to weed and pick crops, they have begun to bring in two overseas workers to help out.

There is also the closer retailer-customer relations: Nancy broke off the conversation with Brant Farms several times to assist customers, all of whom she addressed by name. They are often greeted by the farm dog; Daisy, who she called “our most valued employee!”

James Robert Moore founded Moore Farms, immigrating by train from Michigan in 1916. (The family still has Moore’s original Detroit-Ayr trunk tag.) His son, Murray, married Marcella, whose recipe box remains in use.

Murray and Marcella’s son, Lloyd, began the strawberry production approximately 35 years ago; first by renting out the acreage to another grower; then taking over the roadside attraction two years later. Alan and then Ethan subsequently nurture this crop, which occupies six acres in rotation.

“That was 35 years ago,” said Ethan, 33. “The strawberries were always there for me.”

Ethan likes the convenience of their beef arrangement. By restricting the Black Angus herd to only finishing stock , Ethan finds it easier to manage the two herds’ ration requirements, due to the more specific feed requirements of bred cows, who calve in the spring.

“Black Angus is a good quality meat that everybody eats,” said Ethan. But he appreciates the Texas Longhorns which he began with six head, including a bred cow, in 2020.

“It’s super easy for a Longhorn cow to drop a calf. In the past, our family had 300 stocker calves but no calving experience. Texas Longhorns are easy calvers – they have a low birth weight and maintain good body health.”

Moore said that Longhorns evolved as a scrubland species that originated in Spain. They produce leaner meat whose lower saturated fat and calories are akin to those in bison. “It was something different to bring in.”

The Longhorns stay at the home farm, while the Black Angus herd resides in another barn. “Customers love to see the Longhorns,” said Nancy, grinning.


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