After years of running a successful farm market and pick-your-own operation, we wanted to expand our business. We decided to take an introductory baking course at George Brown College in Toronto and to install a full bakery in the market. The response from our customers was amazing. To build on that knowledge, we attended a one-week pastry course at Le Cordon Bleu Chef School in Ottawa in 2004. We journeyed to Paris to complete an intensive one-week course in Boulangerie (bread making) at the famous Le Cordon Bleu Chef School in 2005. We spent time visiting bakeries and markets all over Paris. One thing that really stood out for us was the quality of bread in France – a combination of artisan know-how and old world techniques.
We came back with a real appreciation for bread baked the old-fashioned way in wood-fired ovens. The following year we enrolled in a course that was being offered on building and using wood fired ovens at the San Francisco Baking Institute in California. We learned a lot from our instructors as well as the chefs and bakers taking the course with us. We have travelled to many locations to look at other wood fired oven bakeries including California, Kansas, Australia, Quebec, Vermont and Paris.
In 2005 we sold the original farm and began our quest for the perfect location for our new venture. We had a vision of what we wanted to achieve – an upscale location with a beautiful view that would be a true destination for food lovers. At the centre would be a wood-fired oven from which we’d produce artisanal pastries and bread. Apples would take centre stage.
We found the ideal location on Boston Mills Road in Caledon, a very picturesque area. The land had only been used to grow hay in the past and testing revealed that the soil would be perfect for apples. The proof of this is in our hundreds of wild apple trees, which are spread throughout the property.
Hard cider seemed like a perfect fit. We both enjoyed having a glass of cider and knew that there was a resurging demand for this time-honoured beverage. Many amateur cider makers would ask us for non-pasteurized sweet cider from which to make their own.
As with everything we do, we wanted to be the best at making cider, so needed to find someone to learn from. We flew to Somerset, England in March 2007 to take Cider Making Principle and Practice from Peter Mitchell, the world-renowned expert in cider making. Our classmates came from the U.K, Wales, Europe, India and the United States. In December of that same year, Peter offered a follow up course, Cider Making -- Building Expertise at Cornell University in New York. This gave us the opportunity to meet with and learn from other producers living in a similar climate to ours.
In the spring of 2005, we started planting apple trees with an initial block of 2,500 apple trees comprised of 15 different varieties. In 2006, an additional block of 1,200 trees with 8 varieties was added. In 2007, 1,000 more trees were planted and in 2008. 250 more trees were added.
After over three years of trying to obtain permits and planning our market, we finally received permission to proceed from the Niagara Escarpment Commission, the Town of Caledon and Credit Valley Conservation Authority. Construction began at the end of October 2008 and we were finally ready to open in September of 2009.
Our dream is finally a reality!