For Justin’s birthday, we celebrated the fall harvest with a plant-based dinner on the farm.
First and foremost, we celebrated Justin’s 26th birthday. It just so happened that a unique celebration was also taking place on the same day. Wildflowers Farm in St Thomas, Ontario hosted a Fall Equinox harvest dinner. It was an outdoor dining experience on the farm. And it was entirely plant-based. I discovered this event only days in advance and immediately contacted the hosts. The dinner was completely sold out; however, another couple canceled only moments before I emailed them. We signed up right away to take their place. Clearly, it was meant to be!
A TRIP TO ST. THOMAS
St. Thomas, also known as the Railway City, was once an important transportation hub with numerous railways across town. The city has strong ties to their history of railway transportation, as demonstrated through local museums and even the name of the local craft brewery, Railway City Brewing Company. A heritage railway for tourists, Port Stanley Terminal Rail, runs between St Thomas and the nearby waterfront town of Port Stanley. The closest major city to St Thomas is London, Ontario.
JUMBO THE ELEPHANT
Every small town seems to have a roadside attraction with opportunities for photos. St. Thomas has a statue of Jumbo the Elephant. Jumbo was a gigantic African Bush Elephant who performed in the circus. The word, jumbo, actually was derived from this elephant’s name! Sadly, Jumbo met his tragic end in St. Thomas. He was hit and killed by a locomotive. In 1985, a life-sized statue of Jumbo was erected in St Thomas, a century following his death. Yes, that is a train car behind the statue. If you’re driving through St Thomas, it’s worth a trip to this interesting roadside stop with an intriguing story.
VEGAN IN ST THOMAS ONTARIO
While nearby London and Port Stanley have vegan restaurants and eateries with veggie options, St. Thomas isn’t the most vegan-friendly town. St Thomas doesn’t have any vegan restaurants, and there are barely any vegan options at the local establishments. However, judging by the turnout at the Fall Equinox harvest dinner, there is a growing interest in plant-based cuisine here. Many vegans and vegetarians attended the event. Many omnivores with an interest in healthy eating also attended the dinner. Everyone sampled a variety of cuisine sourced from local farms and restaurants. Owners Jane and Chuck of Wildflowers Farm showed that delicious and hearty meals can be prepared using only plants.
When Justin and I arrived, we were warmly greeted by Jane and Chuck at the entrance of the farm. Wildflowers Farm is a nine-acre organic farm with flowers, native plants, and bees. They have their own line of herbal tea, which we got to sample and bring home with us.
FALL EQUINOX HARVEST DINNER
There were several tables, and we chose one at the front. Justin and I sat with a friendly couple, and we chatted throughout the night. This dinner was a great social event, even for the two of us who didn’t know anyone else in attendance. We made some new friends, enjoyed live music by two local acts, and tasted yummy food and drink all evening long.
At the start of the dinner, we helped ourselves to beverages, including Wildflowers’ iced tea and beer by Railway City Brewing Company. Initially, we planned to visit the brewery to taste the beer. But, we discovered that we could sample the beer right at dinner. One of their seasonal brews, Orange Creamsic Ale, was refreshing and summery with hints of orange – like a Creamsicle!
Local artisan cashew cheese maker, Nuts for Cheese, had a tent set up on the property. It was our first time trying their nut-based cheese (and it wasn’t the last!). We tried several flavors, like their versions of Brie, blue cheese, and Muenster. They’re awesome substitutions for dairy cheese that everyone adored.
Local London vegan restaurant, Glassroots, provided three different hors d’oeuvres: Heirloom tomato bruschetta with tofu feta, lemon zest and basil cream; Moroccan chickpea salad bites with cashews, cilantro and dates; and butternut squash and hazelnut crostini with maple balsamic glaze and fried sage.
I could have eaten just the hors d’oeuvres and gone home happy. All three were tasty little bites, from the spicy chickpea salad to the sweet tomato bruschetta.
In between courses, we wandered around the farm. Chickens clucked happily. Owner of Succs on the Beach in Port Stanley displayed her handmade jewelry and succulents in unique natural containers, like ones made from driftwood. The sun slowly went down as evening descended on the farm.
STARTER AND MAIN COURSE
We were so spoiled by this meal. To start, we savoured a bowl of roasted tomato and sweet pepper soup, topped with a sauce verte by local organic farm, Orchard Hill. Sourdough, wheat, and rye bread was provided by local baker, La Houlette de Vie Bakery.
The main course was prepared by Salt and Pepper meals in Port Stanley. There was a vegetable curry, roasted root vegetables, and rice pilaf. By the end of the evening, I ate an incredibly large amount of food. The community of local chefs, farmers, and bakers came together to create a delectable meal, entirely with plants. The ingredients were locally sourced – Jane and Chuck explained which farms the produce came from before serving each course. It was a plant-based farm to table meal, served right on the farm.
SAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT
No meal would be complete without something sweet! This wasn’t your typical “fruit as dessert” that many vegans eat at a catered event or restaurant. You’d never know that these desserts were missing the dairy products. They would easily rival any dessert, and they were made without any animal products. Justin and I ate an apple crisp by That Crepe Place, and bite sized chocolate peanut butter fudge by The Pie Pantry, paired with freshly roasted coffee by Las Chicas.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed overnight at the Comfort Inn St. Thomas. The hotel is conveniently located down the road from Wildflowers Farm and just outside the downtown core. The rooms were clean and comfortable. There was a flatscreen TV, free Wi-FI, a mini-fridge, a microwave, and a Keurig coffee maker in the room. The hotel staff were extremely friendly, and went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable. A complimentary breakfast is included for all hotel guests. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and highly recommend this hotel to anyone visiting the city.
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Have you ever attended a harvest dinner on a farm?