FOUND: Ritchie’s silos a shrine to city’s agricultural history

BY ROGER BIRD

This article was originally published in the October 2014 print edition of Ottawa Magazine as part of a series of three colourful workspaces in Ottawa.

Four giant, grey, concrete silos facing Highway 417 in the east end are a monument to the city’s agricultural history. Photo by Jackson Couse

The Monument
On the eastern approaches to Ottawa stands a 20-metre-high monument to the city’s agriculture: four giant grey concrete silos facing Highway 417, with a sign on the side that reads Ritchie Feed & Seed Inc. Each of these silos on Windmill Lane can hold about 1,000 tonnes of corn, with comparable amounts for lightweight grains such as barley or wheat. Beside them, a larger white structure looks like a cluster of giant cylinders crammed together. For decades, if you were a dairy cow, horse, chicken, pig, or sheep, this larger cluster was where lunch was made. Cereal crops, along with vitamins, gluten, salt, and antibiotics, were ground, mixed, soaked, and forced through a device called an extruder to form feed pellets for livestock across the city of Ottawa, the province, and northeastern U.S. states.

Lessons of the land
The “city” in the city of Ottawa consists of about 500 square kilometres of streets, houses, pavement, office buildings, shopping malls, and parking lots. Then there’s 200 square kilometres that make up the greenbelt. But inside city limits, almost 950 square kilometres of Ottawa land is in use for agriculture — that’s more than a third of the city. This paradox is audible on Windmill Lane in early spring. Neill Ritchie of Ritchie Feed & Seed is on the phone handling a call about some soon-to-be-shipped baby chickens, turkeys, and Peking ducks. “Do you want them at the same time? We won’t know until they show up whether they’ve been sexed.” He tells the poultry producer that you get a four-pound bird in six to eight weeks. After that, it’s less meat for a dollar’s worth of feed. Ritchie should know: he’s walking agricultural heritage, a member of the family that founded the company in the 1920s, co-manager with his brother Doug, and the company’s all-round expert on growing things, both plant and animal.

Movable feasts
Feed production — and the necessary silos — started on Boteler Street, south of Sussex Drive, in the 1920s. That operation shut down when the National Capital Commission needed the land for what became the Pearson Building, home to the then Department of External Affairs. Ritchie’s moved to Windmill Lane and built new silos in 1963. A couple of years ago, the company moved again and set up a mill in rented silos on Experimental Farm land near Hunt Club and Woodroffe. It used parts from the Windmill Lane site and continued grinding grains and squeezing out feed pellets for livestock in Ottawa and beyond, driven by a need for efficiencies and bigger volume. Inside the old silos, on a tour with Craig Harrison — the company’s fleet supervisor — it looks as if the crew has just left after a day’s work. Spilled grain on the floor, cobwebs in out-of-reach places, light filtering down from windows high above, and the rich smells of last year’s harvest.

Past and future
Aside from community gardens, the Experimental Farm, and small weekend markets across the city, there’s little evidence of Ottawa’s almost 1,000 square kilometres of farmland in the areas where people live and shop. Among the few reminders, the “Vinette silo” on the east side of Centrum Boulevard in Orleans made it onto the city’s heritage register three years ago. But there’s no talk of seeking that official status on Windmill Lane. Harrison, the man who knows the Ritchie silos best, seems a touch wistful when he says they are lying fallow. “But they’re great for signage,” he adds.

MY LOOK: PDA Projects’ Brendan de Montigny

Originally published in the October 2014 print issue of Ottawa Magazine.

Brendan de Montigny is co-founder of PDA Projects, a new gallery on Elgin Street. Photo by Jessica Deeks

Brendan de Montigny is co-founder of PDA Projects, a new gallery on Elgin Street. Photo by Jessica Deeks

Although he is always carefully styled, you could never characterize Brendan de Montigny as superficial. A graduate of the University of Ottawa’s Master of Fine Arts program, de Montigny is co-founder of PDA Projects, a community-centric space for art that opened to no small fanfare on August 16 at 361 Elgin St. Tony Martins talks to de Montigny about life, style, and art.

You seem to have a look that is at stylish and unconventional. Would you agree?
When I was 10 years old I wore a clip tie regularly and I’d read the newspaper in the morning before school. I don’t know if I am unconventional, maybe just always odd. From worst to best, I would read the world news, Canadian news, art news — and I’d save the comic strips for last.

I remember seeing you with a pocket square with tiny skulls. For you, how much about style is in the details?
Style is the details. I used to consider myself a punk — or at least, I was into the music. I now wear the skull pocket square with a suit, a culturally loaded garment, and I like that questioning of binaries found in culture.

What are some of your favourite places to shop locally?
Stroked Ego and Victoire. I also like Tristan because it’s Canadian designed. I actually only shop for clothes a few times a year and then wear them into the ground.

Your haircuts are distinctive and razor sharp — you must work with a seasoned professional, yes?
This is actually embarrassing: I get my hair cut every three weeks! For me, it is a way to relax, have a soda, get a hot shave, a trim, and listen to some good music. I have been going to the House of Barons for the past nine months at 481 Sussex. My barber is Jeff and he has a knack for banter, a good hand with a blade, and is quite existential. The space reminds me of a tree fort for grown ups, they also have Crown shaving products from Toronto — that’s a plus because they’re also Canadian.

Brendan de Montigny is wearing a shirt from Tristan, a black jacket found at Kensington Market in Toronto, black jeans, Nike high-tops, and a Nixon watch. On the wall: artworks by Marc Knowles. Photo by Jessica Deeks

Brendan de Montigny is wearing a shirt from Tristan, a black jacket found at Kensington Market in Toronto, black jeans, Nike high-tops, and a Nixon watch. On the wall: artworks by Marc Knowles. Photo by Jessica Deeks

Do you follow any men’s fashion magazines or go fully rogue?
Rogue, I guess. I am not going to lie. I have tried to read GQ or Esquire and so on and really I don’t identify with this masculine, or gendering, “bro” culture. My late grandfather, who worked an assembly line, who fished who hunted and drove an RV, told me many times: “A person is based on how they act, not how they dress.” I live by that.

Are you inspired by any style icons from the art world? Andy Warhol? Salvador Dali?
Not really. I appreciate that there have been these artists in our history who have pushed their ideas further. However, I have issues when their ideas are diminished by the colour of their hair, the length of their moustache, or the shape of their eyeglasses. Fashion shouldn’t only be determined by what the successful players think, nor should art in Canada be. Art is for everyone. If you love any type of art with confidence you are already succeeding.

MY LOOK: Matt Carson

This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of Ottawa Magazine. Sign up for a subscription or order back issues here.

By DAYANTI KARUNARATNE

I hear you’re having a lot of success as a model. What would you say is your biggest accomplishment so far?
My most recognized work has been for Le Chateau, RW & Co., and Tristan. But I also did a video for Bon Jovi. It was the weirdest casting call ever: I had to stand in front of a camera with no shirt on, eyes closed, and scream like I was drowning.

Matt is wearing a Z Zegna suit and tie, a Hugo Boss shirt, a vest by Diesel, and Terra Lite work boots. Photo by Andrew Carson

Matt is wearing a Z Zegna suit and tie, a Hugo Boss shirt, a vest by Diesel, and Terra Lite work boots. Photo by Andrew Carson

What did you do before modelling?
Handyman work. I still do it — it’s how I support my interest in modelling. About four years ago, I was looking to get away from being an employee. I was losing interest in working for someone other than myself. Also I wanted to travel more. Things started to get successful last year, and I went to Istanbul, Kilimanjaro, Nashville … there’s no way I could have done those trips while working for someone else.

What would you be doing if you weren’t modelling?
I’d be a musician. I play drums and want to learn guitar. My most recent trip to Nashville really opened my eyes to what I think is my true passion: music.

What do you listen to when in transit? Read any good books lately?
I like classic rock, like Led Zeppelin, The Doobie Brothers, The Eagles, and The Tragically Hip. And I read a lot of biographies of successful people, like Donald Trump, and books like Think and Grow Rich and How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Read the rest of this story »

A DAY IN THE LIFE: Stalking Rhiannon Vogl, Alan Neal + Jill Zmud, and Aaron Cayer

In the print edition, this series gets a snazzy opening page.

In the print edition, this series gets a snazzy opening page.

Call them community builders, locavores, or simply passionate people who fill their days with cool projects. In the September issue of Ottawa Magazine, we tasked photographers Rémi Thériault and Jamie Kronick with keeping up with these fine Ottawans who are helping to revitalize the downtown area. Once the pics were in, OM special projects editor Sarah Brown, OM contributing editor Fateema Sayani, and OM editor Dayanti Karunaratne filled in the captions.

It’s always tough to know what elements of the print edition to share online. We put a lot of effort into making a great layout and — no offence, WordPress — but cutting and pasting for the screen reader just doesn’t do justice to the skills OM art director Jane Corbett and graphic designer Ryan Mesheau bring to a feature. (And that’s not even getting into the whole newsstand sales conundrum.)

So when it comes to posting print edition to web, we play it by ear. For this feature we’re giving online readers a peak — and our willing subjects something to share with friends and family outside of the city.

And if you’re looking for a newsstand or a subscription, just drop a line to feedbackottawa@stjosephmedia.com

 Click on the thumbnails for a glimpse of A Day In The Life of Rhiannon Vogl, Alan Neal + Jill Zmud, and Aaron Cayer. And get the issue for the full story!

MY LOOK: Inspired by Courtney Love

PROFILES: Brooke Henderson — PGA Women’s Champ, Canada

OUR LOOK: Mother + daughter retail mavens celebrate style, business, and family

Q&A: Andrew Peck, executive director of the Glebe BIA, navigates the neighbourhood’s changing landscape

4 Comments

MAKING IT WORK: Open marriage in Ottawa

MY LOOK: Dancer and choreographer Natalie Gelman