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HELPERS: Lafontaine potato farm has donated 20,000 pounds of food since Christmas

'How do you measure that level of generosity?' asks Georgian Bay Métis Council president about local farmer
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Cim Maurice of Lafontaine’s Fer-Mar Farm, right, stands with his son AJ in front of one of the reliable tractors used in the production of potato crops. Daily donations in excess of 20,000 pounds of potatoes have gone to communities in need across Simcoe, Muskoka, and even to Toronto.

Farmers exist for one purpose; to provide food.

Sometimes, it is for themselves and their immediate families, and other times it is to sell to merchants. However, in times of surplus, there are some farmers who are compelled to spread the bounty of their harvests to the community at large — to those in need of food the most — for no cost.

Cim Maurice, 40, is just one of the many family members and staff who help run Fer-Mar Farm, located at 205 Concession 17 West in Lafontaine.

The name Fer-Mar itself stands for Cim’s grandparents’ names: his grandfather Fern and grandmother Marion.

“My grandfather first started with a one- or two-acre garden back in the day, in the basement of the old farmhouse here,” said Maurice speaking to the longtime home he’d spent all 40 years of his life within.

"That’s how it got started. We were into beef as well, and we slowly got out of the beef industry and more-and-more into the potatoes; it just took off.”

Fer-Mar Farm has been the Maurice family’s inheritance through generations, extending to Cim’s wife of 13 years Jackie, and their children Lili, Alyssa, and AJ.

“My father and uncle both own Fer-Mar Farm,” Maurice explained. “My father is getting ready to retire, and then my brother and I will be taking over.”

Since the start of the year, Fer-Mar Farm has donated more than 20,000 pounds of potatoes through the assistance of the Georgian Bay Métis Council, as well as the Owen Sound Métis Nation and the Moon River Métis Nation.

"I also do a lot with the food banks in Barrie,” Maurice added, “and a little bit with the Georgian Bay Native Women’s Association in Midland."

Greg Garratt, president of the local Métis group, explained the origin of Maurice’s involvement.

“When COVID hit, and Cim saw that we were doing some food programs, he messaged me to say: ‘Hey, we have a lot of potatoes here that we can’t get to market due to the way they’re downsized right now in the packaging plants.’ And rather than having to bury them into the ground, he’d rather donate them to the community.

"I don’t know how you can place a value on being that generous,” Garratt continued. “I mean, in these times in the pandemic, his generosity was actually uplifting. The number of comments on our council’s Facebook page; people coming here to pick them up and telling us what a great thing it was… We even had some of our volunteers deliver potatoes to people we know to be homeless, in the tent cities, to help them get by as well."

“How do you measure that level of generosity? It’s not easy to quantitate.”

The 2020 Hunger Report, as issued by Feed Ontario, marked an additional 26% increase in first-time visitors to food banks between March through June of 2020, due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic’s first wave.

Health Services for North Simcoe Muskoka maintains an updated list of all food banks and community food programs which serve free or low-cost food to individuals and families in need, all across the Simcoe and Muskoka regions.

As Garratt noted, the Georgian Bay Métis Council has been a focal point for being able to distribute food donations around the region, in thanks to Maurice’s generosity.

“Cim’s example has led others to come forth. We’ve had people who do packaging of non-perishable foodstuffs in Barrie, sending us their surplus to distribute to citizens: 1,200 bags of oats; meal kits; anything from maple syrup to fresh eggs have been donated.”

Having given so much to the community, and received equivalent praise and recognition in return, Maurice has shown that the greatest wealth a person can amass is the gold that resides within one’s own heart.

Said Maurice, “I was always taught: if you give, you shall receive. I think I’m living a pretty good life just because of what I do. I really enjoy what I do and how my life’s been going.”

Fer-Mar Farm can be contacted at (705) 533-4148 or through their Facebook page. Their products can be purchased at many grocery stores throughout the region.

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Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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