Teresa, Martin, Dean & Phil Van Raay
Ontario Pork Producers | Huron County, ON
Teresa and Martin’s home farm near Grand Bend has been in the family for nearly 40 years. They raise pigs as well as corn, soybeans, wheat and garlic. These days, with four grown children, they share the load with sons Dean and Phil. Phil is building a ‘barndominium’ (an amazing building that contains a modern home attached to a full-size equipment shed and workshop) on the farm property to keep a close eye on their animals who have just moved in to their new barn.
The barn has a cutting-edge ventilation and drop-tube feeding system with plenty of customized features to support pig health and well-being, including enrichments like toys and pens that support positive herd dynamics. The family also operates a retail butcher shop, The Whole Pig, winner of the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.
Chefs play an important role in the local food community, as ultra-informed and food-aware consumers. Chef Michael Hunter recently visited the Van Raay farm to talk about pig farming in Ontario and the crucial role farmers play in producing quality local food. “There’s not as many farmers out there anymore, so we have had to grow bigger and grow better so that less can produce more,” Teresa explained. “There’s less than two per cent of us who provide for 100 per cent of the world, so we’re small but mighty.” Chef Michael acknowledges that that’s a big responsibility. “And, a privilege,” Teresa insists. “If you can be trusted to put food in people’s mouths…that’s a pretty big deal in our minds.”
As a vocal advocate for local food and ethical food management and sourcing, Chef Michael was eager to discuss animal care and food quality. “Our pigs grow better when we treat them better,” Phil responds. “So it is in our financial interest to treat our pigs as best as possible. It’s also just the right thing to do, and we’ve never known any other way here.” Phil also notes that their pig nutritionist works with their local feed meal to ensure their pigs receive a top-notch diet consisting of local ingredients, an investment that further benefits consumers. The Van Raays sell their corn to the mill for processing, so they can feed their corn back to their own pigs. “I’ve got to tell you,” Phil says, “our pigs are getting better nutrition than we are.”
Teresa has an understanding of what many consumers want to know about local pork. “They’re looking for how we raise our pigs. Once we explain how we farm, that we grow our pigs here, that we’re family run, we take the manure and we put it on the fields for the nutrients – the new barn we’ve built; there’s manure storage underneath enough so we can hold it and utilize the manure and nutrients at the proper time. The next question I get asked is, ‘Do you feed your pigs hormones and antibiotics?’ We tell them that in Canada, there are no hormones registered for pork, so there’s no added hormones. No matter what claims are out there, any Canadian pork that you get in the grocery store or on your plate in your restaurant, you can be sure that there’s no added hormones and there’s no antibiotics in it.”
Sustainability & Tech
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CONNECTIONS, TRUST, AND LOCAL FOOD.
Chefs Eva Chin and Michael Hunter visit Ontario pork farms and form the bonds that last all the way to the plate.