I’m Danielle French, founder and owner of South Pond Farms. South Pond was started founded in 2008 as a small food delivery business. Since then, it has grown to become a culinary destination, offering special events, weddings, workshops and corporate retreats all set in our restored century barn in the rolling hills of rural Ontario. My vision has always come from a connection to the land and the food that we grow and prepare in our kitchen. There have been many changes over the years, and we will continue to evolve over the years to come. This is the story of how we started.
I had moved to the Bethany Hills from Toronto a few years earlier with my four daughters, Carlyle, Grace, Olivia, and Aubrey Rose and our dog Mollie. It seemed like a good thing to do – we were ensconced in the city and I thought if I had any chance getting them to experience rural life, then it was the right time. I had grown up in Vermont and while not on a farm, all things in Vermont are immersed in grass routes culture involving local food and farming. I was also influenced by my grandmother, Isabel, and my grandfather who I spent the summers with on their farm in Michigan. She cooked on a wood stove, baked bread every other day, persevered fruits and vegetables that they grew on the farm, and lived a lovely, simple life. I yearned for this and wanted my girls to have it as well. They could always go back to the city but the probability that they would go to the country later was not as likely.
In the Beginning: Farm Flavours
One day in a cafe in the middle of January in Toronto with my girlfriends, Val and Karen, I was lamenting on what the next steps were with my life and, on a more practical side, what to have for dinner that evening. I drove home and drafted some concepts in my mind and decided on starting Farm Flavours, a business making prepared food from things grown by me and local farmers. I would deliver a meal called “weekend baskets to go” every Friday to people that ordered them. I sent an email out to a few friends who sent it out to a few more friends and that same week, I was making and then on Friday, delivering beef borgingion, potatoes, a green salad, and cookies! The meal would be complete requiring only a reheat or a toss of the salad. I began each weekly menu with a short story about life on the farm, or where I got the recipe, or some details about the traditional foods my grandmother made and I found people actually appreciated knowing where their food came from. Meals didn’t have to be complicated but simple based in local and seasonal ingredients. And so it began.
Building the Barn
I met Shawn when a neighbour referred me to someone who “knew about barns” and could restore the barn here which at that time was barely standing. The stars were aligned – my godmother, Renate, helped provide some seed capital and Shawn set about to create his magic with the property. It was his careful eye in recognizing the way the land allowed for gardens and structures and the sweeping driveway that created the backdrop for me to make something wonderful here. His restoration of the barn was a testament to what all traditional bank barns looked like – without the animals and hay. And once he built it, word traveled and people came wanting to have special celebrations, suppers in the barn, and workshops about local food. This has not been a single effort but collaboration of our family and now extended family, all helping to make this a magical place. A hidden gem it has been called and that is true. But it is also our home.