According to the Lambe family of Meaford, their story begins with an apple orchard, a well-used pie recipe and a little red wagon.
In the 1940’s, dairy farmers Mabel and Hartley Lambe were among the first farmers in Grey County to plant apple trees on their property just east of town. Once their trees began to produce, they started selling apples out of a garage at the front of their house.
In 1947, Gord brought his young bride, Grace (Grandma Lambe), home to a second house on the family farm – a home she continues to live in today. Grace and Gord continued to build up the family business, adding two varieties of pear trees: (1) Bartlett Pears – the most common pear world-wide, is bell-shaped, sweet and soft with a light green skin that turns yellow when ripe; and (2) Bosc Pears – known by their slender neck; fine textured and russet colour.
As Gord and Grace’s three children grew up, Barbara, David and Darlene were expected to help with the family business. Dave recalls that as a kid, their garage was always full of bushel baskets of apples. He also remembers harvest season as being a real community event, where farm neighbours would often drop by to help pick after they finished their own chores.
Both Mabel and her daughter-in-law Grace were talented pastry chefs. Hating to see anything go to waste, Grace began baking pies from some of the fruit that was bruised and couldn’t be sold. She’d sell these pies at the roadside, wheeling them from her house in her kids’ red wagon.
Eventually, it got to the point where, to meet demand, she was baking up to 40 pies a day from the kitchen in her house. Tired of the floury mess he’d find every night when he finished work on the farm, her husband Gord finally announced that it was time to build her a small bakery. Needless to say, Grace was thrilled.
In the decades since, that first building has been expanded many times and now includes three kitchens, a three-room retail store, storage facility and two walk-in freezers. Dave chuckles as he said, “Every time we’d build mom a building, she’d say it was ‘too small’ and she was always right.” A second location added six years ago in nearby Chathworth.
When it came to picking a name for the business, Dave said there was only one logical choice. Grandma Lambe’s was named in honour of Mabel Lambe although Grace is now proud to wear that title.
The business started small, open only two months a year. Today it is open 362 days a year, with the exception of Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Good Friday. When asked about New Year’s Day, Grace chuckles before replying, “I’m here anyways. I might as well be open.” She added that the store’s informal motto is, “We may doze but we never close”, noting that there many often times when they’ll answer calls or knocks on their doors after hours from people looking for baking . The family can usually accommodate those requests.
The farm business is a true family affair with three younger generations now working alongside the current Grandma Lambe. Grace’s daughter Darlene Smith and granddaughter Cailey work full time in the stores and bakeries. Son Dave and grandson Blake manage the farm’s 135 acres of fruit trees. Son-in-law Larry Cann makes apple pies when he’s not managing his own dairy farm. The bakery now produces up to 200 pies a day – raspberry, apple, cherry and peach as well as meat pies. All pies are still made using the pastry recipes Grace inherited from both her mother and mother-in-law.
Looking around at her family, Grace, now 89, says she can’t imagine the business without them. “It’s hard work but it’s so rewarding,” she says. “It’s a real family affair.”
-Adapted from a story by Kelly Daynard, Farm & Food Care.
|Meaford Store206570 ON-26, MeafordPhone: 519-538-2757||Chatsworth Store317239 ON-6, Owen SoundPhone: 519-794-3852|
- Originating in eastern Asia or China, the pear is related to the rose. It’s thousands of years old and has produced literally thousands of varieties of itself.
- Growing pears is generally easier than growing apples, as they have less pest and disease issues.
- One medium pear (160 g) has about 100 calories, is a good source of fiber and a source of Vitamin C, potassium and folacin.
- Pears are available August to January in Ontario.