Vendor Feature: Wandering Bee Farm
August 4, 2021
August 4, 2021
Located in Thorndale at the end of Nissouri Road, The Wandering Bee Flower Farm is nestled near the Thames River in an oasis of woods, endless fields, families of birds, and of course, gorgeous blooms. Owners Bronwyn and Dan took us on a tour of the farm, regaling us with fun facts about different flowers, tales about their donkey and alpacas, and the story of their farm and family.
The flower initiative began as an idea in late 2018 and took form in 2019 with 30 beds of flowers. Last year saw a growth to 60 beds, and now there are roughly 100 beds of flowers on the farm with potential for many more as time passes. As we wandered The Wandering Bee, I couldn’t help but ask the origin of the name. It was Bronwyn’s creation and as Dan puts it, the name captures their spirit of being wanderers and their connection to bees through the flowers. Bronwyn is originally from London, but Dan is from the U.S.A. They met there, and decided to settle back in London after moving back to Canada in 2016 and wandering the East and West Coasts – they are wanderers at heart and consider flower farming a new adventure as well as an escape.
Being able to work, see, and be with the land is one of the reasons why the team does what they do. Dan enjoys having an intimate knowledge of the land and being able to watch it grow and change. Being able to offer something beautiful to someone comes with benefit as well; flowers bring so much joy, especially in the difficult times we’re living through.
Zinnias, Snap Dragons, Lisianthus, Nasturtium, Sunflowers, Yarrow, and many more flowers are growing on the farm now. Each flower has its own needs and grows in its own way. Dan shared the life story, if you will, of the Zinnia, a beautiful flower that’s unique from other flowers in that they aren’t fans of coolers, making them difficult for flower shops to carry, or be transported, as they should be enjoyed soon after harvesting. A local-only flower? That just makes us love them more! Right now, there are four beds of zinnias growing on the farm, all at different stages of growth so that there will be a steady supply of zinnias ready to be picked and enjoyed. We’ve documented the stages of growth in photos below.
The unique needs of each flower are also why the blend of farmer and florist is a wonderful one. Bronwyn explained that when picking the flowers, they think about what the flower needs to continue growing, and at what exact time they should be picked. Since zinnias have a fragile “neck,” they can’t be picked too early or their stems will go limp; a couple of stems that weren’t ready to be picked in the morning were nearly ready by lunch. Certain flowers with multiple bulbs per stem present a different problem: if some bulbs are ready to be picked and others aren’t, the farmer needs to decide where to cut the stem for optimal future growth. It’s the full cycle from start to finish.
We were joined on our walk by more members of the Wandering Bee family/team. Sparrow, Dan and Bronwyn’s youngest daughter, brought out their donkey Latte (a.k.a. Jack) for a walk; Latte protects the alpacas (Buttons, Evangeline, Venus, and Serenity) from coyotes, dogs, and foxes, and also provides comfort and a friend. Sparrow and her siblings River and Petal help with weeding, planting, entertaining the animals, and more, and Petal also takes most, if not all, of the photos! The perks of working with family, says Dan, is that quick diversions from work are welcome and provide for quality family time.
Also part of the team are Dallas and Jack, Bronwyn’s parents. Dallas is a florist and dubbed the bouquet queen! She is passing on her craft to Bronwyn who she considers an excellent student. Jack is truly a jack-of-all-trades and loves working with the vegetables the farm grows, fixing the equipment on the farm, and inventing new equipment to make the job easier!
We also met Sydney and Jemima, two employees that Dan and Bronwyn brought on to help for the summer. They both do a bit of everything. During our visit, Sydney was harvesting flowers and putting together bouquets, and Jemima was out delivering flower subscriptions (you might have spotted her at Market last Saturday). With the growth the farm has seen, their help is much appreciated!
Finally, we have Dan and Bronwyn themselves. Dan is the self-dubbed Head of Awesomeness or Field Manager (we like the first best), and Bronwyn manages everything from website curation, harvesting and making bouquets, to organizing subscriptions and deliveries, and now planning farm pick-ups!
Farmers’ Markets are special places for the family. Bronwyn recalls Saturday morning trips downtown with regular stops at the Market. Dallas said it feels like being home. That face-to-face with customers is something that doesn’t come easily with deliveries; chatting about flowers or life in general and answering questions is one of Dan’s favourite parts of market. This is also why they now have two booths at Saturday Markets as it provides more space for customers to spend their time chatting and enjoying the company of flowers. The coming flower pick-ups at the farm will allow for that as well. Keep an ear out as this opportunity will be coming soon! Emily and I loved our drive out to the farm. It’s a lovely get-away from the city and provides for many scenic moments. Returning with a fresh bouquet of fresh flowers is simply a beautiful bonus.
Last Thursday Market, we were so excited to have one of our very own vendors, Becky Ellis from Entangled Roots run a Honey Workshop! In her hour-long workshop, Becky showed us how to make Rose-Infused Honey, Fermented Garlic Honey and Hot Chili Pepper Honey. For her rose-infused honey, Beck advised us to use dried rose petals as adding water to infused honey can cut down on the length of time your honey will last. Then for the Garlic Honey, Becky poured her honey right over peeled and crushed raw garlic. She suggested letting it ferment for about a month, and during that time, every few days or so, burp your honey to release some of those garlic gases! Lastly, Becky made her hot honey, with chili peppers from her very own garden. For this honey, she mixed up the peppers and honey in a saucepan and let it simmer for about five minutes. Being the fan of honey that she is, Becky will use her hot honey the same way you would use hot sauce. Becky’s workshop was a blast, and I walked away learning how to use honey for more than just on my toast!
This Thursday at 5pm, the Farmers’ Market is welcoming Kimi Abdullah from London’s Petojo Food & Catering. Kimi will be teaching us how to make Rasa Indonesia inspired corn pancakes, Bakwan Jagung!
Kimi is a self-proclaimed ‘food nerd’. She graduated with honours from Humber College’s Fashion Arts program in 2006 and has since earned a certificate in Project Management from The University of Toronto. Bitten by the travel bug, she’s travelled across North America, Europe and parts of Asia, eating everything from musubi to Catalan-style croquettes. These adventures serve as an unconventional culinary education sharpening her ability to uncover food trends and restaurants before most. She likes to boast that she ate at New York’s Estela before Barack Obama did. We are so excited to learn more about Indonesian food from Kimi and talk all things food!
A new venture we are sharing this week is a weekly nature column brought to us by a loyal friend of the Market, Glenn Berry. Glenn recently moved from Toronto and is now happily enjoying the natural wonders of London. We are thankful for Glenn’s time and knowledge, and his dedication to studying and enjoying our wonderful natural world!
These weekly pieces are written by, and the photos are taken by, Glenn. Enjoy!
Pigeons and sparrows are the most common wildlife around our Covent Garden Market. Ducks may visit on a rainy day. But there is much more. In fact, the garden beds attract several species of insects.
One of the beds is different from the others for its array of native species of wildflowers. It was set up by the Pollinator Pathways Project. See project’s website for more information: https://www.pollinatorpathwaysproject.com
On July 14, the wildflowers had two attractive visitors. The first was a Nessus Sphinx, a large colourful day-flying moth. In its adult form, it feeds on the nectar of only a few species of flowers. Like many insects, this moth depends on food sources that are native to its territory. It can be seen all over the eastern United States and parts of Ontario.
The second was a Red Admiral. This species attracted a lot of attention in 2012 for its population explosion. Exploiting the warm weather, there were over 300 million of them from Ontario to New Brunswick. It can be found in the temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Its wide distribution is due to its varied diet which includes rotten fruit and bird droppings.
Sometimes the best camera is the one in your pocket. Both photos were taken with an old iPhone.
The writer is a novice amateur naturalist who depends on Internet resources and a few field guide books for species identification from photos. iNaturalist is a great place to start: iNaturalist.ca
The first step to becoming a naturalist was to become a birder five years ago. The learning process was accelerated by taking photos and then studying them at home. More experienced birders were always happy to share what they knew. The next step was to turn the camera on butterflies and other large insects.
Watermelon is one of my favourite summer fruits! There is nothing better then biting into a delicious slice on a hot summer day, or so I thought until I tried pickled watermelon! I had heard of pickled watermelon rind, but this was pickled watermelon FLESH, an entirely different ballgame!
Cindy from Elgin Harvest made some last year and brought some to last Saturday’s market to share. After my first bite, I couldn’t quite match the flavour, because I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything like it! It was savoury, sweet and refreshing all in one bite. Pickled watermelon would be a perfect addition to any salad, burger or sandwich! Cindy shared her recipe with us so we had to share it with all of you!
Recipe by Linda Ziedrich
We love being able to showcase amazing community organizations here in London, and this week we get the opportunity to welcome TWO!
This Thursday’s Market, London Cycle Link will be here from 4 to 7pm! London Cycle Link is a community nonprofit operating in the city, they plan fun events, advocate for cycling infrastructure, and offer repairs and workshops out of the Squeaky Wheel Bike Co-Op. Stop by to say hi, pump your tires, or ask any questions you have about what the Cycle Link does for our city.
Then on Saturday, we have the London Environmental Network joining us from 8am to 1pm! London Environmental Network is an umbrella non-profit organization that connects and supports local non-profits and community groups working with an environmental focus. They aim to build strong, resilient organizations so they can be more effective at creating positive environmental change over the long term. They also strive to help Londoners learn more about environmental efforts in our city and how to get involved. Interested in becoming involved? Swing by the Market Saturday and say hi!
Snake Bite Creations will be at the Market both Thursday and Saturday. This is Snake Bite Creations last market before making a big move, so come on down and have a look at all the one off hats and tapestries that you can’t get on the website!!
We are also so excited to have Taiwo Apampa to the market this Saturday from 10am to 1pm! Taiwo is a mixed-media visual Artist who infuses jewelry and texture into acrylic paintings. Her inspirations stem from her deep-rooted African cultural heritage. She was selected as a featured artist in the 2021 UpWithArt / Unity Project annual fundraiser, where her artwork was auctioned and proceeds used as relief for homelessness in London, Ontario. Her works have also been exhibited at The Black Visual Arts Exhibition (The Black London Project).
For live music, Patrick James Clark and Mark Swan will be jamming out Saturday Market from 10am to 1pm! Patrick is a Canadian-born singer-songwriter who crosses genres and pushes boundaries to infuse groove, rhythm and story-telling with a fresh and modern country sound. Mark is a 29 year-old musician born and raised in London! His inspirations range from Jazz, Funk, Rock, Pop, Orchestral, Hip Hop and Metal music but has always had a taste for any style of music. We can’t wait to jam out to their tunes this Saturday!!
This is the list, folks! See who you can find at the Farmers’ Market this Thursday, August 5th! Click on their names to find information on pre-orders and to learn more about their farms and businesses!
Check out their websites for more information about their products and to see what’s in season/currently available!
This is the list, folks! See who you can find at the Farmers’ Market this Saturday, August 7th! Click on their names to find information on pre-orders and to learn more about their farms and businesses!
Check out their websites for more information about their products and to see what’s in season/currently available!