Living the simple life

[P]eameal bacon, Montreal-style smoked meat, and even poutine can be considered staple foods that come to mind when thinking about Canadian cuisine; but the most iconic food comes from the sugar of our trees, maple syrup.

At Ryerson’s weekly Farmers’ Market on Gould Street, which takes place every Tuesday, farmers set up their booths with everything from cheeses and meat to fruits and vegetables, and of course, delicious maple syrup.

Most students and faculty walk by in a rush to get to their classes, where they pass the booths of to see what is offered and few stop to shop. However the people that do stop, whether they be apart of the Ryerson community or are just walking through the campus, are drawn to the fresh produce from the different vendors. Many people stop to engage in conversation with the farmers as they pick up their selected goods.

At Jay Thoman’s booth, he speaks with a high knowledge of his maple syrup, letting shoppers know the advantages of the natural sugars that are contained within his bottles.

Thoman’s booth had a short table full with different types of maple syrup stocked in varying sizes and styles of bottles. Pictures of the process of making the syrup were on either sides of the table, with the price list in the centre. Thoman however, said he does not care too much about money. He describes money as, “a number on the bottom of a page.”

Before Thoman had his syrup farm, he was the owner of his own technological company. He says that he has even met the former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, and has had stocks in Apple since shortly after the company formed.

So why and how would someone go from owning a successful technology business into making a complete career change and running a maple syrup farm instead?

“Enough was enough,” Thoman said. He wanted to know “what it was like to live outside of the system.” He wanted to know what it was like to live on his own sustainability. He believes that people need to live within the day, be more community oriented, and to live by what they believe.

“What do you really need in life?” he asked. “What do I need more for?” That was the moment where he knew that he wanted to try something different. He wanted to know what it was like to live apart from the corporate system.

So Thoman sold his company, and bought a large piece of land in the small town of Speyside, Halton Hills (between Milton and Acton). At first Thoman did not know what exactly he wanted to do with the land, it didn’t have the greatest farming fields for crops, however what it did have was a whole lot of maple trees. Thoman now not only makes his own maple syrup, but he also grows his own food on his land, heats his house with wood, uses solar power, and gets his water from a well. He prides himself in knowing that he not only has a low cost of living, but also that he has a small carbon footprint.

Like with other crops this year, the maple syrup season was shortened due to the warm weather. What is usually a five-week season in March and April was only about 2 weeks. Although Thoman does not believe in the idea of currency, he did say how he is lucky that he has savings in his bank from the sale of his company.

Syrup farming has been Thoman’s main focus now for four years, his farming is done on a small scale, and that is exactly what he wants. He travels regularly from his farm in Speyside to about 5 or 6 different famers markets over the season.

Top Five things to Buy at the Farmers’ Market
1. Corn – The vegetable of Thanksgiving. Perfect on any fall day.
2. Squashes – Including pumpkin for Halloween, but also butternut, and especially hubbard.
3. Apples – Although apples didn’t have a great season this year, they are still the best fruit of the fall.
4. Apple Cider – Heat it up and it is the perfect drink before sleep on an autumn evening.
5. Grass Fed Beef – Better than any beef you could buy in the supermarket, lower in fat, and higher in protein.