For those needing a night away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, the yurt located on Springfield Farm provides an opportunity to enjoy some time in a pastoral setting. Thompson Goddard Photo

There will be a lot of activity occurring at the Springfield Farm, owned by Finbarr McCarthy and Eleanor McGrath, on County Road 25 near Apple Hill in South Glengarry on Sept. 25th, when their sold-out Field and Feast dinner is held.

Eleanor explained they purchased Springfield Farm in January of 2014, after looking at several locations in Ontario, noting “it was our real estate agent, Irene, who showed us the rolling hills of Glengarry that sold us on Eastern Ontario.” 

The couple were both raised in cities but developed a connection to agriculture with Finbarr working on farms during the summer as a youth, with family and friends helping to provide a foundation from which Eleanor’s agricultural interests were established.  In addition to developing and operating Springfield Farm, Finbarr owns a “mechanical design build company” and Eleanor commented how her “career has spanned work in various not-for-profits, writing, film and as a mom of four children and wife to Finbarr.”

After purchasing Springfield Farm, they have worked to develop their “Environmental Farm Oasis” in South Glengarry, with a lot of hard work, determination and accessing local craftsmen to upgrade or create new buildings. In addition to operating a market garden with produce such as squashes and heritage vegetables which can be purchased at the Glengarry Market in Alexandria, Eleanor commented how they have begun the process of establishing an apple orchard with the planting of over 100 trees. 

Since 2017, the family has provided visitors with the opportunity to stay in an onsite Yurt, with Eleanor mentioning before the pandemic they had fellow Canadians, American, Swedish as well as “a Vogue photographer from the UK” as guests.  She continued Agritourism is “a billion-dollar business worldwide” and expects in the post pandemic era it “will come back stronger” as people have become interested in staying and eating local.

When asked about the Field and Feast event, Eleanor explained Finbarr had emigrated to Canada from Ireland several years ago and during the many family trips to Ireland, they were inspired “by the nation’s focus on Agritourism.” She mentioned the Ballymaloe Cookery School and Restaurant “which had its humble start in the farmhouse kitchen” is now a 5-star farm destination. After reading “The Third Plate” by Dan Barber, it became “our farm’s guide for the work we would do to create our Environmental Farm Oasis.”  Eleanor and Finbarr also drew inspiration for their Field and Feast from “Chef Barber’s annual farm feasts at the Stone Barns in Hudson, NY.”

The 2021 event is designed to feature local food and “highlight the many local farms and farmers who work year-round to put food on our plates.” The menu will be prepared by Special Guest chef Joseph Shawana CEC, CCC, chair of Indigenous Culinary Associated Nations working with chef Michelle Daprato, from Buvette du Marche in Alexandria, and chef Roger Caron, owner of The Spicy Pearl in Cornwall.  Three County Cider of Glen Walter will provide refreshments with other local beverages served to complement the meal.

Musical entertainment will be provided by St. Clair and the Situation, “a five-piece band out of Toronto” who will perform an eclectic selection of music.  Also featured will be Tom Manley and Isabelle Masson, who are well-known local ballroom dance instructors, demonstrating their skills.  Ben Benedict, an award-winning wood carver, and painter Barb Benedict of Akwesasne, will have a gallery of their artistic work at the dinner to peruse, purchase and will provide “guests with an opportunity to discuss their art and learn more about their inspiration for their respective works.”

Eleanor wished to express her thanks for all the support shown from various organizations including “St. Lawrence College,  RTO9 and SouthEastern Ontario partnership support, Growing Eastern Ontario Organically and the Eastern Ontario Agri-Food Network and the incredible local farms and businesses such as The Glengarry Market, Kirkview Farms, Hamelin Brothers Barn Restoration, Latreille Electrical Contractors, Glengarry Portapotty and MicMac Tents”.  

As the interview concluded Eleanor commented how they “are looking forward to welcoming international guests again next year” before thanking “our community of family, friends and farming neighbours for the years of support and guidance as we build our Agritourism destination in this beautiful region.”