Black River is a small community in Prince Edward County. It’s quaint, historical and full of natural beauty. As a small town, the residents are friendly, welcoming and treat each other as one big family; they support one another and rely on their local shops and growers. One of which is Quinta do Conde, a new model farm located off County Road 16 with the meandering Black Creek close by.
Owners Joaquim and Amor Conde started the business in 2013, trading bustling Toronto streets for quiet rural roads. It was a big change – Joaquim operated an automotive repair shop, while Amor worked in interior design – but when country life came calling, the couple jumped at the opportunity to leave the big city behind. Seizing opportunity, they purchased a 19th century farm on ten acres and set their sights on modernizing the 150-year-old estate and adopting a biodynamic farming process.
Quinta (pronounced keen-tah) is Portuguese for “estate”, and the Condes describe their farm as a “traditional biodiverse agricultural estate.”
As a biodynamic farm, Quinta do Conde takes a holistic approach to agriculture, creating harmony amongst the farmers and their animals and crops. By allowing most of the livestock to wander the pastures and practising composting, crop rotation and cover cropping, the farm generates its own fertility and eliminates the need for commercial fertilizers. Today, a business like the Conde’s is considered a new model farm. But it’s not all that dissimilar from what a small-scale family farm might have looked like a century ago.
A Biodiverse Farm With Diversified Products & Services
Running a small business on a small-acreage farm requires diversification, especially when you’re adamant about being environmentally friendly. For Joaquim and Amor, this meant finding multiple ways to generate revenue in order to sustain themselves.
Not only can you purchase fresh produce, vegetables and meat from their store or farm stand, you can become a member of their Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) program, too. Plus, Joaquim is also an olive oil producer. Once a year, he returns to his native home in Portugal and works with an organic farmer to produce micro batches of pure, extra virgin olive oil. The certified organic olive oil is sold under the Conde Gourmet brand which includes almonds and dried figs.
On top of product sales, Quinta do Conde provides unique agritourism services for those looking for an on-farm experience. Multiple times a year, Joaquim and Amor invite locals and tourists of The County to a southern european inspired feast on the farm. The Table-at-the-Farm experience includes a harvest dinner made with ingredients grown on the farm and sourced from other local businesses. In a 2018 article published in The Kingston Whig Standard, Lindy Mechefske had this to say about the experience:
“Tables are set up on the sweeping green lawn between the old farmhouse and the farmyard. The sunlight is filtered through the big, old trees. Here among the lambs, piglets and ducklings, we are gathered together to eat, to breathe the fresh air, and to heave a collective sigh of relief that places like this still exist. A more picturesque setting would be hard to find.”
Quinta do Conde hosts other food events, too, such as the Portuguese cuisine winter workshop, where participants take part in creating a tasting menu featuring traditional recipes and cooking methods. Workshops for children and adult seminars are also available. A variety of farm tours are available as well, and the farm can be booked as a venue for weddings and other special events.
Finally, Joaquim and Amor have Quinta do Conde listed on airbnb, giving you the opportunity to enjoy a peaceful retreat at the farmhouse. The farm stay provides guests with a private suite featuring a kitchen and a three-piece bathroom, along with the chance to harvest fresh veggies from the gardens and forage for wild plants throughout the property. It’s truly an immersive experience, giving you a taste of what life on the farm is like.
Growing With Community Support
Quinta do Conde is approaching its ten-year anniversary, making it a staple attraction in the region. Of course, despite the many renovations Joaquim and Amor have done since taking over the farm, there is always room for growth; not to mention, living in a century home on a ten-acre property that was largely untended since the 1970s keeps the couple busy. But support from the community has never wavered.
Fellow farmers didn’t hesitate to provide guidance in the early stages, and those local connections are tied to the success of their business, according to the Condes. Collaboration and partnership are the cornerstones of farming in South Eastern Ontario, and the owners of Quinta do Conde know this as well as any. Joaquim and Amor source feed from their neighbours’ farms, and they purchase seedlings from local producers like Blue Wheelbarrow Farm, Mirepoix and Vicki’s Veggies.
Even before the COVD-19 pandemic, preserving the culture of small- to medium-sized family farms was of utmost concern to Joaquim. Now, it’s more important than ever. With that in mind, the Condes encourage you to support local business whenever possible and invite you to The County to discover the charm of Quinta do Conde.