When Cynthia Cook was a little girl, her father chopped down a tree on the family property. Young Cynthia took it upon herself to beautify what had become a bit of an eyesore. “I went into the woods and got some plants,” Cynthia recalls. “Then I put rocks around the trunk and I filled it with dirt and put the plants in there.”
It should come as no surprise then that Cynthia is in her 39th year of owning and operating Forest Glen Herb Farm and Bed and Breakfast in Lambton Shores. “I grew up cooking with herbs because my mother cooked a lot with herbs and spices,” Cynthia says. “My dad also used to grow lots of different flowers so it’s easy to see where my love of growing things comes from.”
Cynthia inherited part of her grandparent’s property in Bright’s Grove but three years later she and her husband decided to move. “They were going to be developing across the road from where we lived and we didn’t want to live across from a bunch of houses,” Cynthia says. “We wanted to live in the country.” The move allowed Cynthia to develop Forest Glen Herb Farm into a functioning smallholding farm. “That means there is no large equipment,” Cynthia says. “Because there is no big equipment there is no need to do wide spacing when planting. Everything is planted very close together and it’s all hand planted and hand-harvested.”
Forest Glen Herb Farm has five permanent growing areas and three other areas that are replanted every year. At harvest time everything is cut, bundled and taken upstairs in a barn to dry. That process could take between a few days to two weeks. Cynthia sells all her products in the store on her property. Forest Glen Herb Farm features countless products including various teas, coffee, hot chocolate, spices, jams and jellies, pepper jellies (hot, medium, mild), honey, potpourri mixes and sachets, clothing, kitchen, and body care products, cooking herbs, dips and mixes, soup mixes and herb and spice rubs among other things. “I have done the occasional market, but it’s easier to sell from our store,” Cynthia says.
It hasn’t been all clear sailing through the 39 years thanks to Mother Nature. “We have had flooding and droughts,” Cynthia says. “But I just go with the flow.” She is also proud of the fact everything is organically grown. “I don’t use any sprays on our plants,” Cynthia says. “Because of that there is the occasional insect issue, but we don’t do anything about that because we have beneficial insects that look after the bad insects. It’s biodynamic which means it supports itself.”
The Airbnb market has negatively impacted Cynthia’s Bed and Breakfast. But she’s not giving up on the business. When the COVID-19 pandemic ends she plans to offer her B&B as a retreat to small groups. The odd setback doesn’t deter Cynthia. “I love what I do and I do what I love.”