La Ferme Black River
Elaine Atlin and her daughter Stacey call themselves foodies. They give true meaning to a term that is thrown around quite a bit. Their passion and knowledge of fresh, local quality food is extensive. Elaine and Stacey have dedicated their lives to learning about farm fresh products and distributing them across Ontario with their company La Ferme Black River Game Farm Inc (LFBR).
About five years ago, the Atlin family bought La Ferme Black River from Jean Marc and Nadine Ridel, a French couple that began LFBR over 30 years ago as a small family run farm that raised game birds (hence the name) in Pefferlaw, Ontario. It slowly evolved into a distribution company that was based around distributing game meats and artisanal cheese from Quebec to Ontario.The Ridels had strong connections to the Francophone population, and as a result established relationships with many Quebec suppliers and producers. When Elaine and her family acquired the business they maintained the relationships that were already established and began forming relationships with farmers and producers in Ontario.
Elaine holds the reins of LFBR. She worked as was a chartered accountant selling computer software before acquiring the business. When she went to Pefferlaw, Ontario to meet the Ridels and learn more about LFBR, she admits it felt like fate. She jumped on the chance to follow her lifelong passion for food and purchased the business.
LFBR currently orders from approximately 30 farmers and suppliers every week and distributes to over 300 restaurants, retail stores and institutions. Suppliers are chosen carefully. Elaine and Stacey visit farmers and producers to ensure animals are treated ethically in a clean environment. Seeing the amount of time, skill and dedication necessary to produce their product inspires Elaine and Stacey. Visiting the farms also gives a story to relay to their customers about LFBR products. Elaine tells a romantic story about one of her best pork suppliers: a mennonite couple that uses only manual labour to raise their pigs on whey. They produce a consistent and delicious product and like many of Elaine’s suppliers, they rely on the LFBR to transport their pork to the urban market so they can focus on farming.
Elaine and Stacey are a strong mother-daughter duo. Since acquiring LFBR they have overcome many challenges that distributors are faced with; making deadlines, finding reliable suppliers and anticipating orders. Things have gotten a fair bit easier since this past December when LFBR moved from Pefferlaw into a brand new space in Toronto. Elaine and Stacey no longer have an hour-long commute and they are conveniently much closer to much of their client base which allows for last minute orders and closer relationships.
The new LFBR space is equipped with a beautiful kitchen and a massive conference/eating space. They plan to bring their clients and suppliers together for tastings, meetings and demos. Stacey mentions the possibility of impromptu dinner parties, wine and cheese tastings, and classes. On staff, LFBR has chefs, cheese experts, butchers… and foodies like Elaine and Stacey. They are dedicated to learning about good, local food and thankfully, making it accessible to the urban market.
This post is part of an ongoing GFR series on Toronto restaurant suppliers. Click here to see all the articles.
Michelle Rabin is a Toronto based recipe tester, writer and server. She loves shopping at farmer’s markets, supporting local and sustainable products and of course eating delicious food. Follow her at @michellerabin and check out her blog The Art of Eating Alone.