Travelling Derland Road in East Ferris you will come across a farm stand run by a family with deep roots in the area.
Joel Corbeil is a descendent of the Corbeil’s who originally settled the village. Farming was a necessity of life for the family, and the values of sustainable agriculture are being carried by the family today.
“This land that we’re on now belonged to the Corbeil family,” explained Melissa Corbeil, who with her husband Joel and two young sons, have worked the land since purchasing it three years ago.
“It was first purchased when Corbeil became Corbeil,” she said, “by one of the Corbeil brothers,” in the late 1800’s. “There’s a lot of history here.”
Built from the stone and lumber on the property, the original house still stands, although now sits back further from the road as it was “moved with a team of horses” and rolled over logs to its current location.
To honour the farm’s history, and pay tribute to the family’s lineage, they named the place Rootstock Farmstead.
The one-hundred-acre parcel of land has not been continuously farmed. Not a lot of farm work was done since the 1950’s, Melissa said, so “we’re basically regenerating the farm.”
Before moving to the farm, Melissa and Joel greened their thumbs on a small plot of land in Astorville. Soon gardening became a lifestyle, and Melissa became more involved in the agricultural community of East Ferris and the surrounding region.
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She began encouraging people to “start small,” and that no matter the size of lot, “you can grow your own food.”
“It’s such a sustainable way of living, it reduces your carbon footprint, you just have a connection with that food, and it becomes more ethical in that way.”
“It’s addictive, and can become a spiritual thing once you start on this garden and homesteading path.”
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Moving to the much larger property allowed the couple “to spread our wings” on the agricultural front, Melissa said.
Gardens have increased in size, chickens abound, and bees have recently been added to the mix to help with pollination and provide some honey.
For Corbeil, getting the message out about homesteading and farming is paramount. While still on the Astorville plot, she formed a Facebook group to help connect local farmers within the area.
This led to creating a website for Rootstock Farm, including social media pages, which Corbeil uses to offer advice to those getting started in agriculture and homesteading.
Recently, she launched the second season of the Farmhouse Kitchen Project, a subscription service delivering seasonal products from area farms to consumers’ tables.
The subscriptions sold out in days, and the initial delivery will be ready this month. Feedback from last season’s customers “were really positive,” she said, and overall, allowed people to have a true “farm to table experience.”
This past weekend the Corbeil's opened their farm stand, selling produce and farm crafts at the end of their driveway.
Theirs isn’t the only one, as a few of her neighbouring farms are also beginning to open stands for the season.
Open on weekends throughout the summer, Corbeil likens the cottage industry to “a farm stand revolution,” focusing on sustainable resources, and lessening one’s carbon footprint.
“We have a real movement toward that sustainable living lifestyle,” she said, “and I love it. That is what needs to happen.”
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See: Retired Powassan farmer inducted into Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca