I first learned of the magical gem that is South Pond Farms approximately two years ago. Having just attended a beautiful outdoor wedding at this then little-known venue, a friend gushed about the farm’s picturesque location in the rolling Bethany Hills, the incredible charm of the property’s gardens and refurbished barn and house, and the unforgettable farm-to-table feast she’d been privy to while there. Suffice it to say that the food aficionado in me was very intrigued.
Imagine my surprise, then, when further investigation revealed that not only is South Pond Farms featured in a lovely NETFLIX series called Taste of the Country, in which owner Danielle French and her fantastic team are spotlighted as they craft unique, food-focused events with a rustic twist, but that South Pond also hosts a myriad of special events. Among them: team-building retreats, spring/summer community supper clubs – the latter features live music in the barn as attendees dine on incredible local fare – and ongoing, hands-on cooking, crafting, floral arranging and baking classes.
After many attempts to experience one of said supper clubs and/or classes with friends, I recently found myself giddily in the midst of a 3.5-hour South Pond Breadmaking Workshop. A wanna-be baker’s dream event, seven other participants and I were slowly and skillfully walked through the art of traditional breadmaking by pastry chef Dylan Smith, given expert, hands-on instruction on the techniques and ingredients best utilized in artisanal bread creation, and were guided, step-by-step, on how to measure, mix, knead and flour our loaves to warm, crusty perfection.
Scheduled on a Saturday from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm, the fun and engaging session afforded attendees of all abilities the opportunity to get their hands in dough, develop an understanding of the texture and consistency bakers aim for when making bread from scratch, and to leave with two beautiful loaves of bread (flatbread and kettle bread), recipe cards, as well as a highly coveted, make-it-yourself sourdough starter to use at home. The session also included a delicious three-course light lunch prepared by South Pond chefs, featuring fresh, local ingredients and refreshments, all of which were served to workshop participants on a communal harvest table to round out the stellar experience.
Once the plates were cleared and good-byes were said, with my stomach full and my delicious bread packaged for the drive home, I realized that, of course, no visit to South Pond Farms is complete without a bit of exploration of the stunning grounds and buildings. Even on a snowy day, a host of idyllic nature walks and the Ballyduff trails along the Oak Ridges Moraine beckoned, as did the farm’s picturesque pond. I wasn’t able to spot resident goats and chickens in the chilly temperatures, but the incredible restored barn was a sight to behold, as was the lovely gift shop. Chef Dylan’s fresh bread and pie offerings are reason enough to pop in – as are South Pond’s jams, spreads and salts – but Danielle’s thoughtful details and inclusions of local makers’ beautiful things (think: charcuterie boards, wooden spoons, handmade soaps, cosmetics and so much more) add an abundance of charm to the shop.
From start to finish, I can honestly say that my experience at South Pond Farms did not disappoint in the slightest. Even in the off season, Danielle and her team’s focus on making every experience truly warm and special is hugely apparent, and they offer a taste of place unlike any other I’ve encountered in our region. Thinking of visiting South Pond this winter? The farm welcomes guests every Thursday to Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm, and serves a variety of fresh, unexpected culinary offerings for lunch each day. (It’s wise to keep in mind, however, that while Danielle welcomes drop-ins, she adds that reservations are prioritized.) A complete look at the events happening all season long can be found here – from savoury, fresh homemade meals (eaten inside the South Pond Farms kitchen or outside by the fire) and celebration feasts, to a host of hands-on workshops and classes, including breadmaking and a holiday wreath-making course, there’s no shortage of options.*
*Because many of South Pond’s offerings sell out early, you’ll want to book what appeals to you quickly. And should you find that a session you’d like to attend is full, Danielle and her team are happy to offer a customized course/workshop for a group of six or more attendees, doing all they can to ensure your experience at South Pond Farms is perfectly suited to your wants and needs.
This article is part of a series on our local producers and Feast ON certified restaurants who are hosting the 2019 Terroir Rural Retreat, an event that reconnects speakers, sponsors & media from the annual Terroir Symposium with the people and places that make Ontario’s food scene worth celebrating. Click here to discover how you can plan your taste-of-place trip with inspiration from this remarkable event and our unique & talented communities of producers.