Leaving Ottawa meant leaving behind a whole community and network of people. I’ve learned how important those networks can be, especially for someone like me, so it’s been really important to me to rebuild them for myself in this new region.
My parents actually told me about this place practically the same week I moved here. They were raving about how great it was, but I completely misunderstood at first and thought it was like the market and only on certain days and early in the morning. Actually it’s an actual little shop with pretty hours that are much more manageable than just mornings lol.
Hilariously, my first actual meeting with Sandy wasn’t about her shop, but about my quail.
In my first two weeks of moving here, Baba Yaga took a dramatic turn for the worse and one morning, I found her dead in her coop. I was heartbroken, but also scared for now Kikimora was all alone. Before leaving Ottawa, I had found a farmer who sells lovely quail and was going to pick one up from him during the move. Unfortunately, the problems that came up during the move made that impossible and so we were working on a new arrangement. The arrangement though involved waiting for his next delivery to the area, which at the time was still uncertain. As a result, I had no idea when I would be able to get a replacement.
I spent hours on kijiji, on googling, just trying to see if anyone could help me get a quail or two to keep Kikimora company. Finally my dad suggested I call Littlefoot Farms to ask. I did, and first met Sandy. She was incredibly helpful, letting me know that she herself didn’t have quail, but belonged to several poultry groups from the area and could send out a call-out. She got a bite, and it turned out another member of one of the groups was just looking to rehome a few of her hens! She had 4, and I agreed to take 2. On the way to pick them up, I decided to pay a visit to Littlefoot Farms to say thank you.
When you first arrive you it’s a toss up whether you notice the ducks first or the chickens. The chickens have free reign of the whole place and if you are patient and non-threatening, some of them will let you approach them pretty close. In the distance you can see goats frolicking, while the ducks tend to hang out close to their water.
There are different enclosures, some of them holding all sorts of rabbits. On the steps of the house, it’s not uncommon to see cats sunning themselves, probably with a chicken or two, sometimes you can see dogs behind the fence.
The trees have all sorts of bird feeders around.
I really hit it off with Sandy the moment I met her, and the moment I walked into the store, I knew this would be one of my favourite places in the area. So far, I’ve been right.
Farm Shop can be a little confusing of a term since it can mean Farm supply or what is supplied by the farm lol. In this case, it sells the products from Littlefoot Farms as well as from other local farmers, artisans, and the back room is devoted to Alpaca fibres and products. They sell all sorts of eggs, all sorts of meats, different types of milk, they have honeys, and even fresh veggies. They also have a selection of bones, meats, and raw foods meant for dogs and other pets. The Alpaca shop sells all sorts of boots, mittens, hats, cloaks, coats, yarn, and have these adorable Alpaca plushies.
All the products come from local farms with a similar philosophy on farming: clean meats raised the old-fashioned way. It’s not about commercial farming but about raising clean meat from happy animals that spend their time outdoors, pastured, about a whole farming approach which resonates throughout both the farm and the store. Raising animals that serve multiple purposes: like animals for food and fibre, eggs and meat, and so on.
Essentially Littlefoot Farms is a homestead type farm, with a little shop attached that provides local goods provided from local families.
Whenever I tell people about this place they, especially those from my generation, always want to know where the name comes from. For most of us, Littlefoot makes us think of that movie A Land Before Time, where the main character goes by the same name as the farm. The name actually comes from the fact that they first got their start with miniature horses. The name was a reference to their tiny feet.
It also coincided with their interest in maintaining a small footprint. Much like the small footprints left behind by these tiny ponies, they wanted to leave behind a smaller carbon footprint, and with her son’s half-Native heritage, it was a way of connecting the farm to him.
They’ve expanded past just miniature horses but they still raise primarily small breeds: Bantam hens and roosters, Shetland Sheep, they have a few mini donkeys, and different types of goats. They have a bunch of ducks and a few Alpacas as well.
I asked about her interest in heritage breeds: these are breeds that are closer to what farmers raised before commercial meat production led to specialization. There is nothing wrong with commercial breeds In and of themselves. They serve a purpose, and we couldn’t feed a lot of industrial centers without them.
Heritage breeds however, are often used for multiple purposes, usually eggs and meat, but more importantly, they are usually more adapted to different weather conditions and better able to handle being pastured or free ranging. With the popularity of commercial breeds, a lot of heritage species are actually nearing extinction. One of the issues with commercial breeds though is that they tend to be pretty close in genetics, keeping heritage breeds around can be important for the sake of genetic diversity. Moreover, we don’t know how changing times, weather, etc. might change what genetic features are actually more useful.
For example, heritage breeds are in this case more useful for homestead and small-scale farmers. Not just because they are better suited to being a little lower maintenance in some respects, are often better mothers to any offspring you might be hoping to raise, but the fact that in many cases they’re multifunction species, means that they make it easier to diversify while staying within mandated quota rules.
One of the things I’ve been learning as I research getting into small scale farming and homesteading, is that a lot of the laws that exist, especially around here, are really about protecting corporate interests. There are strict rules about how many hens you are allowed to own as a small-scale farmer, if you fall outside the quota you can face consequences from the egg board, or you might have to buy a license that can be incredibly expensive. There are rules about being allowed to only sell on farm, or not being allowed to advertise. Selling at a farmer’s market could mean having to get access to an egg grading station, which is extremely expensive to own and there are currently none accessible to small farmers in the surrounding areas.
In terms of advice to for people, like me, who might be starting out and want to get into small scale farming, Sandy recommends starting small. Start with chickens and other small stock, and take your time to learn then slowly working your way up. It also makes things a little easier financially since you’re not spending all your money trying to fix a bunch of mistakes at once. There is a lot to learn. Most homesteaders and farmers will have at least one person still working a fulltime job to bring in additional money.
Some homesteaders set up subscription boxes. Littlefoot Farms is a drop off and pick up location for Plan B Organic Farms which is a CSA that does boxes.
One of the reasons this place is among one of my favourite places I think can be summed up when I asked Sandy if there was anything she wanted readers to know about her or her farm. She answered that she really enjoys their customers. That you can tell that they’re grateful that they’re there. She went on to say how she had been in a different business before where it wasn’t like that. Here, people appreciate the hard work they goes into what they get. It really makes them feel like part of the community. Everyone loves this place.
I know I do.
If you are in the Niagara Region, or relatively close by, I highly recommend coming out to check this place out. Buy some great meat, some goats milk, and maybe some Alpaca wool mittens! While you’re here, check out the chickens and the ducks too!