Ian Walker of Mari­posa Farm is more than just a hard-work­ing farmer. He’s also a pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate for un­der­stand­ing where the food you eat is com­ing from and has done much to in­te­grate bet­ter in­gre­di­ents into our re­gion’s food sup­ply net­work. His produ

Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - FOOD | LET’S DISH - writ­ten by paula roy

Did you al­ways want to be a farmer?

Yes, be­cause I grew up on a hobby farm; as a boy I raised chick­ens my­self, then butchered and sold them. My wife, Suzanne Lavoie and I have been farm­ing for al­most thirty years now.

You run a multi-faceted op­er­a­tion. What goes on at Mari­posa?

We spe­cial­ize in pro­duc­ing and mar­ket­ing Bar­barie Ducks, Emb­den geese and cross­bred pigs, as well as hav­ing some com­mer­cial veg­etable gar­dens. We are also a dis­trib­u­tor for other re­gional pro­duc­ers. In our ren­o­vated old barn, we have a farm store and of­fer lunches on Sun­day as well as cook­ing lasses.

You’ve long been urg­ing peo­ple to think more about where their food is com­ing from. Why is this so im­por­tant to you?

Even as a kid, I was con­scious of the cru­cial link be­tween farm and ta­ble. Our so­ci­ety has be­come dis­con­nected from its food sources. How do you know if your food is safe or healthy if you don’t know where it comes from or how it was pro­duced? To me, it’s far more im­por­tant to find a qual­ity lo­cal prod­uct than an or­ganic one that’s been trucked thou­sands of kilo­me­tres to get to your ta­ble.

What do you do to ed­u­cate peo­ple about sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture?

We’re al­ways glad to talk with peo­ple who come for lunch or to the store. I have gar­dens at Ash­bury Col­lege and Op­er­a­tion Come Home in Ottawa where I work with youths, teach­ing them about lo­cal food. We also give tours to chefs, classes from Le Cor­don Bleu and other groups.

Did you ever ex­pect to have such close re­la­tion­ships with chefs in the re­gion?

Not at first, al­though Robert Bourassa, who was at Café Henry Burger at the time, and John Tay­lor of Do­mus were among my ear­ ly sup­port­ers, along with Kurt Waldele and Guy Blain of L’Orée du Bois. I’d drive into town and they’d buy just about any­thing I had to of­fer, be­cause it was lo­cal. Now it’s pretty ex­cit­ing for me to go to many of Ottawa’s bet­ter restau­rants and know I’m be­ing served lo­cal prod­ucts, some of which have come from Mari­posa.

What one sim­ple thing can peo­ple do to eat bet­ter?

Shop at your lo­cal farm­ers’ mar­ket. It gives you an op­por­tu­nity to meet, talk with and sup­port the peo­ple that are feed­ing your fam­ily. Mari­posa Farm’s Pan-seared

Bar­barie Duck Breast and Red Wine Mush­room Sauce Pre­heat oven to 400 F. Place 2 duck breasts skin-side up. Us­ing a sharp knife, score four 1/4-inch deep cuts across the skin at a 45 de­gree an­gle. Sprin­kle meat side of each breast with salt and 1/4 tsp. pep­per. Place an oven-safe sauté pan over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add duck breasts, skin side down, and cook for 5 min­utes, or un­til skin is brown and crispy. Flip and cook for 2 more min­utes. Fin­ish duck in pre-heated oven for 5-7 min­utes for medium-rare. Pre­pare sauce while duck is in oven. Re­move duck from oven and let rest for 5 min­utes, then slice thinly. Serve duck with sauce driz­zled on top; pass re­main­ing sauce at the ta­ble. Serves 4.

Red Wine Mush­room Sauce: 1 tbsp un­salted but­ter 2 tbsp canola oil 2 shal­lots, minced 2 pounds as­sorted mush­rooms Leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs Sea salt and freshly ground black pep­per 1/2 cup Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon 1/4 cup duck (or other meat) stock 1/4 cup heavy cream 1 tbsp minced fresh chives

Place a skil­let over medium heat. Add but­ter and oil. When but­ter starts to foam, add shal­lots and sauté for 2 min­utes to soften. Add trimmed, sliced mush­rooms and thyme; sea­son with salt and pep­per. Stir for a few min­utes. Add red wine, stir­ring to scrape up any stuck bits; then cook and stir to evap­o­rate the al­co­hol. When the wine is al­most gone, add stock. Let the liq­uid cook down and then take it off the heat. Stir in cream and chives; sea­son with salt and pep­per.

photography by mark holleron

Ian Walker and Suzanne Lavoie of Mari­posa Farms

Pan-seared bar­barie duck with red wine

mush­room sauce

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