Caring for Land

A profile of Hastings Stewardship Council member Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy and his wife Linda farm on Murphy Road, south west of Tweed. Mike grew up on the Murphy family farm by the water tower in Tweed. Francis Murphy's farm is marked on the Hastings County Atlas.

The Murphy family came to Hungerford Township from Ireland in the middle of the nineteenth century. Mike’s father worked for Pine Grove Cheese Factory and at Stoco Cheese Factory providing the wood needed to fuel the boilers.

Linda grew up in Perry Sound. Her father worked for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and he was moved to Tweed.

Linda and Mike moved to the farm on Murphy Road in the 1970s. Mike has always been interested in land stewardship and is a long-time member of the Hastings Stewardship Council. He decided to join the council as he knows the impact pollution from the Deloro mine site has had on the Moira River watershed. He had an uncle who worked at the Deloro Smelter and Refinery. Also as a farmer Mike knows about the importance of caring for the land.

“Mike has always planted trees in the spring,” said Linda. The Murphys know the importance of managing woodlands sustainably, i.e. not taking out more trees than grow each year. They are dependent on their woods for fuel and they sell firewood.

They also rear beef cattle, potatoes and a variety of vegetables, such as lettuces, radishes, squash, beets, early tomatoes such as Roma, and rainbow Swiss chard.

"We grow all our own food and sell vegetables at the Tweed Farmers Market,” said Linda. She also sells her crafts at the market.

To sell at the Tweed Farmers Market, one either has to produce the food or make it locally. They decided to have this rule so people will know they are buying locally grown produce.

Mike grows a variety of potatoes, which he sells from the farm. When asked how to store potatoes Mike said “Potatoes need to be stored above freezing point in the dark, but not in the fridge.

You can find out more about the Murphy Farm at Harvest Hastings.

Last year Mike and his son-in-law Kevin Young built a new sugar shack on the farm, and put in a very efficient evaporator with five open pans, heated by wood.

In the early spring they collect the sap for the maple trees in pails and put it in a large stainless steel tank outside the sugar shack. The sap is pumped from there into a tank in the sugar shack. It is then pre-heated in a copper manifold before pouring into the first of the five open pans.

The sap is heated quickly to evaporate the water off. The sap flows from one pan to the next, and once the sap in the pan directly over the fire reaches around six degree above the boiling point of water, i.e. 218 degrees Fahrenheit, they can turn on a tap and the syrup runs through a filter into a steel container.

The syrup is then filtered again into a bucket and heated again using gas until it has exactly the right sugar content. They then put the syrup into jugs.

They make beautiful amber syrup with the unique favour of maple syrup made in open pans.

You can learn more by watching the video Making Maple Syrup.