This Farms Paying Crop Is People

You could say the "crop" at Quinn family farm, which hosts 100,000 visitors a year, is people. The farm is situated on an island in the St. Lawrence River just southwest of Montreal, Canada. Admission-paying visitors enjoy a broad range of activities including pick-your-own vegetables, fruit and Christmas trees, and the chance to see founder Elwood Quinn?s rare livestock breeds.

Phil Quinn, Elwood's son, bought the farm with his wife Stephanie in 2010. "We have rare breeds because we feel it is important to showcase them and educate the public about them. That includes explaining why they are no longer commercially used."

Breeds include Berkshire and Hampshire hogs, Shropshire sheep, Milking Shorthorn oxen, and Chantecler (the official Canadian breed) chickens. Until a rooster went missing, Elwood was breeding the extremely rare Hungarian Yellow chickens. He also has the beginning of a White Park cattle herd with one heifer.

While the Hampshire hog is not technically a rare breed, it is considered the oldest recognized swine breed in North America. Hampshires are also the breed Elwood's father raised, notes Phil.

"The preservation of the old breeds is something we hold dear," he says. "One way to do that is to feature them live on the farm, as well as in the freezer for our customers to savor later."

Elwood is active with Rare Breeds Canada and encourages people to get involved. "We really appreciate the articles FARM SHOW has run about rare breeds," he says. 

Elwood and his wife Marie cleared brush to start the farm in the early 1980's, first planting berries and sweet corn. Over time they expanded to include pumpkins, asparagus and more berries, 18 varieties of apples spread across 3,800 trees, and a wide variety of vegetables. A bakery barn offers fresh baked pies, muffins and other treats, as well as preserves and jams. The snack barn offers locally made sausage on homemade buns, homemade salsa, in-season corn on the cob, salads and soups. During Christmas tree season, the menu expands to a full meal of soup, meat pie, squash, baked beans, pie, and a hot drink.

In addition to products baked, grown or made on the farm, the Quinns feature other locally grown or produced products, including candy, goat cheese, honey, maple syrup, soap, and meat.

"Most of the pork and lamb that we sell is from our own herds," says Phil.

The different breeds are on display in the animal barn, often with babies as well as adults. Chickens and other poultry run loose. Elwood admits that mixing the non-farm public with livestock has its challenges. He recalls one boy who was quite proud of having "taught" a Chantecler rooster to jump at him.

"He teased the rooster, making him aggressive, which meant we had to send him to the stock pot," says Elwood. "You can't have an aggressive rooster around little kids."

Adults can be just as much of a trial. He describes a woman who chastised him for the length of the lead rope on the White Park calf. It was too short, she informed him.

"I asked her what the right length was, to which she replied that she didn't know, but she knew it was too short," he recalls with a chuckle.