This sign at the intersection of Ganaraska County Rd 9 and Gilmour Rd greatly understates the experience that is Linwood Acres. I’d been buying fresh, filleted trout and smoked trout there for a year before it occurred to me to do a write-up on it for this blog. However, as I often have to do with hard-to-find trailheads, I’ll give you some specific directions to find the place. Gilmour Rd. only goes North from Ganaraska Rd, so head North while keeping an eye to the left at 750 meters. The sign to the farm is off the road and quite small (Update – Wed June 7 2017 – Jim erected a new improved sign which is much better). It looks like the road into the farm is going into the backyard of # 8330 Gilmour Rd. but it continues West into the bush. Take the 2nd left down to the main building. The driveway can be a challenge for a car after heavy rain or in snow. Linwood is open year-round.
For us, it all started about a year ago when the wife and I decided to start seriously food shopping from local sources. Not just forageables, but small roadside fruit and vegetable stands. Seasonal markets and “farm-gate” purchases as well. It just made sense to buy food from farms that I drive past every day, and people I know personally. We also wanted to eat a healthier diet, and fresh fish is certainly that.
Linwood Acres was created by Jim Taylor some 40 years ago and he has run it ever since. At the time there was nothing but an abandoned old railroad berm running through it. Jim put the roads through, built the outdoor ponds and sheltered buildings, and channelled the spring water. I asked him where the name Linwood Acres came from. With his usual pleasant smile, he told me “Well, all the “Cedar-Whatever, or Whatever Springs, or Whatever-Woods names were all taken”. So, he took his Wife’s second name “Linley” and named the place … Linwood.
The trout farm occupies just ten of the one hundred sixty acres Jim owns and maintains. On a recent visit, Ranger and I stumbled across a patch of locally rare fringed polygalas which we told staffers Sarah and Amber about. Upon hearing of them, Jim asked us to show him where they were. Once found, he assured us they’d be protected. He has since located a number of other patches.
Since the land Linwood Acres is on has never been farmed, it’s in its original state, which would explain the polygalas (and likely much more, we don’t know about). While touring the grounds, Jim pointed out a fallen tree just a few feet back in the bush. A male grouse “drums-up” a mate on it every year, and just last year, a female became so tame she’d follow behind the staff as they walked the trails.
There are three groups of springs on the property. Combined, they provide 1.4 million gallons of fresh spring water to the farm, every day. My former employer Nestle, tested and approved the water’s purity for their bottled water division, but decided better of it when they realized it was on the Oak Ridges Moraine.
So all that fresh, pure spring water is used exclusively to raise trout, and once it flows past the fish, it simply continues downstream into the Ganaraska River.
Every year in November, the milt and eggs from Linwood’s brooding stock are used to start another 300,000 fish. Of that, 40 % goes to stocking ponds throughout the surrounding area. Another 40 % goes to thriving aquaculture operations on Manitoulin Island (which I knew nothing about until Jim told me). The remaining 20 % is spread across, local restaurants (I’ve seen Linwood Acres specifically listed on menus), on site fishing from their stocked outdoor pond, and “gate” sales which is what I do. Every Wednesday I drop in for a couple of fresh fillets (hand done while you wait … and watch if you wish) and a single fillet of smoked trout which is a particularly favoured treat for the wife and I.
Ranger and I used to joke about how we always managed to show up for my fillets and smoked trout at noon, interrupting Sarah’s and Amber’s lunch. Now that I know them both personally, I’ll apologize for that. Sorry Ladies.
As mentioned earlier, the old Grand Trunk Railway used to run straight through the property. In fact, the water tower was only a few yards from the current Main Office, evidenced only by the presence of lilacs, the tower long since gone. Of course, Ranger knew all about the RR berm and knew at one time, it was desired as part of a local hiking club trail. However, Jim discourages hikers, for the safety of his ponds and fish. Entirely understandable and we agree completely. That having been said … I’m hoping “2 old guys walking” can convince Jim of our good intentions, and secure permission to explore his property further in the future.
UPDATE May 23, 2018 – Alot has happened in the last few years. Amber is attending College, and so isn’t around anymore. Sarah retired last November to spend more time with her grandchildren. Jim is still running the place but would like to sell it and retire, himself. There are some new, younger folk running around now, but the trout are still fresh and delicious.