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I was invited by Steven Hellmann from Foodies on Foot to attend a tour of Barrie Hill Farms. The tour was sponsored by Ontario Asparagus, Tourism Barrie, Foodland Ontario and the County of Simcoe.

We boarded the “Asparabus” #asparabus at 9 a.m. in downtown Toronto and made a quick stop in Woodbridge to pick up some additional passengers. Steven provided us with some amazing Nutella treats, fresh coffee, water, music and a trivia contest. (click on any photo to see a larger version)

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The “Asparabus” #asparabus and our host Steven Hellmann

Greeting us at Barrie Hill Farms was the executive director of Ontario Asparagus, Bernie Solymár.

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Executive director of Ontario Asparagus, Bernie Solymár

Bernie welcomed our group and introduced us to the owner of Barrie Hill Farms, Morris Gervais.

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Morris Gervais, owner of Barrie Hill Farms

Morris gave us the history of the farm, which was started by his parents in 1968. At that time the main crop was tobacco. Tobacco was replaced by strawberries in 1979 and then they planted blueberries, raspberries and asparagus. With over 40 acres of blueberries, Barrie Hill Farms is one of the largest highbush blueberry farms in Ontario.

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Morris in the highbush blueberry field

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Blueberry blossoms

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Bees are crucial for pollination

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Morris showed us his field of sweet corn, which has a layer of biodegradable plastic that helps get the corn growing faster.

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Morris grows 17 acres of asparagus. By comparison, the largest asparagus producers in Ontario plant 350 acres.

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On our way to the asparagus fields

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Steven Hellmann from Foodies On Foot in the asparagus field

The asparagus is picked by hand, and Morris employs labourers from Mexico. Morris speaks Spanish, which enables him to effectively communicate with his workers.

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Back-breaking work!

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Our hosts from Tourism Barrie and the County of Simcoe

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Bernie Solymár

Next we visited the area where the asparagus is banded into one-pound bundles and boxed ready for shipping.

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The one-pound bundles are banded by hand

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As the workers took a lunch break, it was time for us to have lunch as well. Morris has a chef working for him who prepared a fabulous lunch for us. Chef Les started us out with a delicious asparagus soup, followed by a shaved asparagus spring salad and then grilled asparagus tacos. Dessert was an amazing blueberry pie. The recipes can be found by clicking here.

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Chef Les

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Shaved asparagus spring salad

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Beautiful blueberry pie for dessert

Before boarding the Asparabus for our return to Toronto, we were invited into their retail store, which contained a variety of fresh and packaged goodies.

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Bernie presented each of us with an Ontario Asparagus cooler bag containing fresh Ontario asparagus, asparagus pasta, asparagus salsa, pickled asparagus, and asparagus smokey antipasto.

It was an amazing day, and my thanks go out to Steven, Bernie and Morris and our other hosts.

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The “Asparabus” #asparabus ready for our trip back to Toronto

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