e041 – Farm to Table with Danielle French
This episode we are talking farm life and parenting on a working farm! Danielle French and her family live at South Pond Farms in the Bethany Hills of Southern Ontario. She is the founder of South Pond Farms, a culinary destination for weddings, farm to table suppers and workshops. Danielle was born in Germany, grew up in Vermont, and came to Canada via McGill University in Montreal. In 2006, looking for a simpler way of life for her four daughters, she moved from Toronto to a farm. Danielle wanted to connect to a rural way of living. She met her partner, Shawn, when searching for someone to help her rebuild the old barn on the property. Danielle loves to create unique settings and menus for the many events she offers at South Pond Farms. Danielle is also the host of a television series called Taste of the Country, formerly on Netflix in eleven countries now on YouTube and the Cottage Life Channel in Canada, where she shares her tips and secrets, trials and tribulations of life and work on the farm.
With four daughters ages 5-12, Danielle wanted to bust out of the "urban path" that she found herself stuck in while living in the city. She wanted to embrace a different kind of world while farming and growing your own food. While going through a divorce and managing the busy shuffle, she had to totally shift her perspective on life and spending time alone while leaving her life and friends behind. She found farm life to be insulated and insular and had to reflect on how to be happy within herself. Sabrina finds her boys have been able to go outside and explore and play and have thrived when given the opportunity to grow up on a farm. Danielle found the stress of the divorce and other factors that were physically manifesting in her daughters, and she had to let go of the need for control during the changes. One of the reasons Danielle started her business from home was the provide a chance to change the focus to growing things, instead of micromanaging the transition.
South Pond Farms was started out of a desire for Danielle to learn how to make cheese. Owning a sheep dairy farm, Danielle went to Vermont to take classes on cheese. Noticing they were making bread for farm suppers, which they hosted and sold out all season long, Danielle shifted her focus on to creating more than just cheese, and look into dinners and breads. She started a meal delivery service that could be ordered every week and delivered on Fridays. Her children watched her excitement as the business grew with deliveries to Toronto. Danielle continued to develop her skills running a business and working with customers and food in general. She knew she needed a proper kitchen to handle the growth of her business, and that led her to meet Shawn, who understood barn structures and how to renovate and even inspired more growth. People began approaching her for weddings and other events on her beautiful land. She continues to add more food and more recipes and space to her farm while looking at the broader picture of her land. Now, 12 years after moving there, she still continues to expand and prioritize breaking bread with friends and family.
Danielle did not want to sacrifice family time and meals with her daughters and being home with them after school. The impact of weekends being booked and having guests over were an adjustment and the kids had to adjust to having to help the business and having guests come to their space and their home and sharing their life. But Danielle continued to share her stories from the day to day operations and included her children along the way. Her oldest daughter is now studying sustainability and Danielle believes the creation of this business has inspired her daughters to be proud of her accomplishments. With mom-guilt always on our brains, we sometimes feel the time we have to sacrifice for the business is taking away from our children, but when they see the growth and accomplishments we get from working, they are proud and we can let go of the guilt that doesn't serve us.
Being a reasonable distance from Toronto, South Pond Farms is an accessible location that balances the farm rural life with the ability to travel from the city easily. In the summer, Danielle hosts a lot of celebrations and farm to table lunches and dinners, including full moon suppers. They also offer smaller events like bread-making classes and fermenting classes. They offer brunch on Sundays all year long, and can even host smaller parties and classes as people inquiry. She talks more about her day to day life on her blog. There is a restaurant on the farm, but the growing popularity means you should definitely make a reservation before heading there, she's been sold out the last month, and regrettably has to turn guests away with a snack. With the popularity of the TV show, she's hosted guests from all over the world, but will continue to focus on her writing and possibly a podcast in the future.
Carve out the time to include your family in the decisions that will impact their lives. When you follow those true gut instincts about what is right for your family, everything flows from there. Danielle started with wanted to make a really good meal for her family, and then began wanting to share it with others. Her business started from wanting to share good food, and her family followed with her.
On the web: southpondfarms.ca
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