If you love garlic, there’s nothing better than Down North, a local garlic farm run by Andrew and Stephanie nestled just off Highway 10 near Chatsworth. The farm grows one thing: and grows it well! Down North boasts a number of different varieties of garlic and is available at the Owen Sound Farmer’s Market, select markets across Grey County, and directly from their farm.
Can you give me a bit of the story of how Down North Garlic came to be?
Down North in essence was a long time coming. The name Down North originally was going to be many other things before Andrew found the passion in growing garlic. Originally it was going to be a craft brewery, then a fishing and tackle shop before garlic came into the equation. The reason for “Down North” was introduced by Andrew’s father in-law Derek as a term used in the east coast. This play on words resonated with Andrew perfectly with being a South Western Ontario kid. Although we are in Canada and feel like the northern folks when we visit our American friends, we are almost as south as it gets compared to the rest of Canada! We are “Down North”.
Andrew ended managing a commercial garlic farm in Ontario and quite literally the seed was planted to start his own garlic farm when he moved back to Owen Sound. The family farm in Chatsworth Ontario has been in the Russell family for almost 60 years. This property has been used for neighbouring farmers crops, hunting and recreation. Although these uses are still widely in effect, the garlic farm is adding its name into the dirt. This year we planted about 100,000 plants to start and plan to grow this number each year.
Your farm looks like it’s a family affair! What is it like to operate all together as a family?
You’re correct – it is certainly a family affair! We couldn’t have made this year happen without the helping hands of friends and family. From my grandma cracking garlic for seed during planting season, to my young children walking the fields during garlic scape harvest to make sure the scapes are removed from the plants. We’ve had so much help and its been a true blessing having so many amazing people in our lives.
What’s different about how you grow your garlic?
Quality is critical in how we do garlic. Each bulb of garlic is handled many times throughout the season. From planting, to harvest, to post harvest. After drying and curing is over we clean all the garlic by hand ensuring the best quality is shown in each bulb ready for market. This takes much more man hours to do but it makes certain we provide our customers with the highest quality whether they are growing or consuming. We grow with no herbicide or pesticides. We also use our garlic in many forms. Black garlic being our most popular subproduct. We have many products to come in the near future!
What’s the best part about growing food and running a business in Grey County?
People. Starting and running a business in Grey County has been a great experience. Not only has the community been so welcoming and supportive but fellow small businesses as well. I don’t think you see communities come together this closely in some of the larger cities or areas. I feel extremely fortunate being able to call Grey County the home for Down North.
How has the business changed over the years and what changes do you see in the future?
The garlic business has changed immensely in Ontario in a short period of time. Canada is still a very small player in the garlic world compared to giants such as China, Mexico, Spain and the USA. However you may have noticed in the last few years that you’ll see more and more local garlic available at grocery stores, markets and farm stands. This is a clear indication that the demand for local product is increasing. Consumers are becoming more aware of what they are putting in their bodies and that fresh local product is not apples for apples when you compare it to food that has been grown and shipped from across an ocean. There is just something comforting knowing your local farmers and where your food is coming from.
Give us your favourite way to eat garlic!
This is a very difficult question to answer honestly! My wife Stephanie sat for a bit trying to figure this out. We have many favourite ways to use garlic whether it is roasted and used as a spread, minced up to add into our favourite salad and bowl dressings. But our absolute favourite is probably our chimichurri recipe we stole from my brother in law Trevor. This is a great topping to add to your favourite red meats!
1 Bunch of Fresh Parsley
8-10 Cloves of Garlic
¾ cup of Olive Oil
¼ Cup of Red Wine Vinigar
1 TSP of Salt (or more 😉)
½ TSP of Ground Black Pepper
½ TSP Cayenne Pepper
Mix all ingredients in a food processor
Other fresh herbs such as cilantro or oregano is a nice touch to add in if you like.
Contact: (519) 588-5600
Location: Chatsworth. ON