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Manic Organic - My trip to Canada.
Ben Shewry

Antony John and Ben Shewry
Friday, 11 December 2009
Dear Kim,

I am often asked about where I get my inspiration from. A lot of the time it's experiences from my past, memories from childhood, mentors like David Thompson and the plants of the wild garden.

Recently on a trip to Canada, I visited southwest Ontario and had one of the most inspirational experiences of recent years. I met an amazing farmer called Antony John. Antony and his wife Tina run an organic farm called Soiled Reputation. Antony is also an exceptional naturalist painter and we shared a common bond as my father Rob was formerly a farmer and has now become a painter of high regard himself.

I was in Stratford, 15 minutes away, as a guest of the Stratford school of chefs. I was preparing, teaching and serving my cuisine to the public with 40 of the schools second year students.

Each morning, Antony would arrive with the most amazing array of vegetables for the the evenings meal. It's hard as a chef to express what a difference the quality of those ingredients meant to my cooking. It's also unusual to meet a grower who is as passionate about eating and cooking of what they grow, as well as the actual growing.

When I visited his farm I felt like a child in a candy shop where everything tasted amazing, pure and of the earth. Antony's way of growing produce is very different to the commercial reality of the 'cash crop' farms that we drove past mile after mile on our way to Sebringville, where the farm is located.

Antony employs 20 people on their 100 acre property. They harvest and grow over 50 different varieties of heirloom vegetables by hand each day.

View Antony's television series: 'Manic Organic' on YouTube

Ben Shewry
Head Chef