white lily diner toronto

This Toronto couple is taking their restaurant's farm-to-table dining literally

Two Toronto restaurant owners didn't let their lack of a farming background stop them from moving out of the city and starting up a farm of their own.

Ben Denham and Ashley Lloyd own White Lily Diner, and now White Lily Farms, which produces a quarter acre of over 40 vegetables including cucumbers for pickles and hot peppers hot sauce. They're also raising chickens.

Though they don't come from farming backgrounds they had been doing some research on their "someday" dream of moving out of the city and learning to farm prior to the pandemic.

"When the lockdowns came we finally had some time to slow down from the daily restaurant grind and think about what we were looking to accomplish long term," Denham tells blogTO.

When some of the initial shock of the first wave of the pandemic wore off and the restaurant had a "pivot plan" in place, the pair began looking at properties in areas surrounding the GTA.

"We ended up falling in love with a 10-acre horse farm property just north of Uxbridge and pulled the trigger," says Denham.

They made renovations to the house at the new property, sold their home in Parkdale and moved to Uxbridge shortly before Christmas 2020.

The winter was spent commuting back and forth to the diner while converting the barn into a wash-and-pack and vegetable production facility.

During the spring, they've been building raised beds, planting and transplanting seedlings, putting in perennials (like apple, cherry, apricot and plum trees, as well as rhubarb, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries), planting an herb garden and "resurrecting" an old chicken coop for their hens.

Most of what they grow this year will be for the diner or preserved for their products, though they will be launching a CSA-style vegetable box through the diner and are even hoping to provide recipes for the ingredients they grow.

They're also planning on selling wholesale to "like-minded chefs/restaurants" in Toronto. They aren't planning on direct farm sales or visits for the public this year, but are looking at doing that in the future.

"We've had few cooks from Toronto up here to help out and learn with us, which has been great," says Denham.

"We really hope the project will inspire more industry people to take a closer look and learn about where and how our food is produced, and maybe make the transition as well."

Lead photo by

White Lily Farms

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