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It was travelling that caused JP Gural of Samsara Fields in Waterford to get into farming

Over the span of a year, JP visited 16 countries on a global research journey that had him return to Canada feeling strongly that a change needed to be made.

“The farm became my outlet to process my experience,” explains JP.

Now twelve years later with 45 acres to cultivate, JP continues to give back.

“I believe in thinking globally and acting locally,” he says.

As a passionate organic farmer, JP’s farming philosophy is rooted in the importance of sustainability and the assurance of local food production.

“Genetic diversity is the most important way to survive,” he tells Norfolk Farms. “Conditions change, maintaining genetic diversity is like my own insurance policy.”

Relationships are key

Samsara is a Buddhist word that means the cycle of death and rebirth. For JP, calling his farm this name is significant. JP’s understanding and deep appreciation of the cycle of life is foundational to his relationship with his land and how he runs his farm. JP recognizes the sacred balance of land management and how everything is intertwined.

“It’s understanding the connection–like the microbes, the insects, the soil–they are all connected,” he explains.

People are equally important to JP. His relationship with his customers is key to why his operation is so successful. People matter to JP.

Also educating the public on things like fake food and how it is not nutritionally beneficial to people is also significant to JP.

Having 3 amazing off-shore workers from Mexico is also imperative to his farm’s success. Everyday JP recognizes and appreciates the importance of having strong relationships with his team.

What he grows

Are you familiar with tomatoes that have the names Brandywine and Aunt Ruby? Growing heirloom tomatoes is one of Samsara Fields specialties. JP explains that often heirloom tomatoes have softer skins that can’t take long distance travel. As a local producer and distributor, it is neighbouring tomato enthusiasts and appreciators that get to enjoy JP’s more unique varieties.

The Brandywine variety has a large potato-leaved foliage with a large pink beefsteak-shaped fruit. They are delicious to eat, just like the Aunt Ruby variety. Aunt Ruby’s are known for being the best tasting and also growing up to a pound or more in size. The taste is explained as sweet with a slight hint of spiciness.

Samsara Farms also excels at growing watermelon varieties that people don’t recognize. For example the Moon and Stars variety is one you don’t see at the grocery store. This variety sports dark green skin speckled with yellow spots of varying sizes.

Peppers, eggplants, squash, zucchini, green onions, leeks, garlic, beets, corn, sweet potatoes and carrots are also grown at the farm.

A medicinal specialty that Samsara Farms proudly produces is black garlic. Black garlic is made by the fermentation process with the addition of honey. It can take up to 300 hours of fermentation for the process to be successful!

“It’s heat, time and love,” explains JP. “The final result is that it comes out like candy–sweet and caramelised.”

Discovered over a 1000 years ago in Asia, black garlic is said to do wonders for the heart and spleen, and for diabetics.

“It has strong medicinal properties,” says JP.

Out of its 45 acres, Samsara grows 9 acres of garlic. Using its on-site cannery, the farm cans garlic in various brines.

Where does the produce go?

Samsara Farms proudly supplies many local restaurants in Norfolk County. JP faithfully attends and sells at the Don Valley Brickworks, the Cabbagetown Farmers Market and the Round House Farmer’s Market in Toronto. At the Good Bread Company in Vittoria, JP sells many of his canned products and his highly innovative yummy freeze-dried produce snacks.

Besides direct customer sales where JP personally delivers his produce to customers’ doors under a Community Supported Agriculture program, the farm also supplies the online subscription service called Mama Earth out of Toronto that sells local organic produce and delivers it to your door.

Freeze dried products

JP loves to create. JP also loves to encourage people to eat healthy.

Teaming up these two passions, JP built an on-site processing kitchen and a certified cannery at his property on Samsara Farms.

“I believe small farms need to develop value added products,” he explains.

Now with a large freeze drying machine, JP is reclaiming snack foods.

“It’s something the space race gave us besides Tang,” he jokes.

By taking his organic produce and freeze drying it, JP is successfully producing fun and 100% healthy snacks.

“I enjoy watching kids discover freeze-dried foods,” says JP. “Their eyes light up.”

When freeze-dried, produce is left 98% nutritionally intact and its storage life is long.

JP says the produce is pre-seasoned before being freeze-dried with no sugar being added. The resulting texture is like sponge toffee–light and crispy.

Partnering with the Latino community

JP grows open pollinated, non-GMO organic heirloom corn. He is proud that his farm is in partnership with Maizal, a Toronto based fresh corn tortilla maker. Maizal owner, Ivan Wadgymar, says he likes to use locally grown corn from heritage seeds as there’s something special about understanding the work that went into growing the corn and how the seeds developed.

“The root of agriculture is cultural,” says JP. “It’s who we are and how we connect.”

Additionally, Samsara Farm’s ingredients can also be found in Toronto salsa maker Mama Macha products. 

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