Thiessen Farms

Keep updated on all that is happening around Thiessen Farms!



Our farm used to be totally surrounded by fruit farms. Everything was orchards – fruit trees in every direction, as far as the eye could see.

While the neighbourhood is still primarily fruit orchards, things are changing …

On 2 sides of us the farms are now planted to strawberries. Beyond the strawberries we see can fields of gladioli & soybeans and a large nut grove. Visible in the other direction through the peach trees is a spread of greenhouses.

Our farm has also changed. We too used to be all fruit trees. Then we planted some raspberries & blackberries. Slowly we added vegetables to sell at our farmers’ markets and through our CSA program. Earlier this summer we talked about cutting down our cherry trees. (

They’re all gone!



Now we have made an even bigger change. All of our fruit trees are gone! No more peaches, no more plums, or pears, nectarines … (actually there are a few cherries still in front of the barn for separation from the road and a few rows of trees throughout the farm for windbreaks – but they will be replaced soon.)






Getting out of fruit-growing is a big decision. Our family has been growing fruit on this farm for 68 years. We have always thought of ourselves as fruit farmers. But now it is time for a change – now we are vegetable growers (with raspberries & blackberries)!

From a marketing perspective, growing both fruit & vegetables is great. At the farmers’ markets we were able to extend our season with an abundant display. Our CSA program attracted more members since we have been the only local CSA offering fruit along with the vegetables.

But from a growing point of view, doing both fruit & vegetables together is difficult. We often feel we are not doing either as well as we would like – one was sometimes neglected to work on the other.

We are looking forward to concentrating our time & energies on vegetables. There are kinds we have wanted to grow but did not have the space to try – now we have lots of room available! We won’t have to cram them all together so close, which should make weeding easier & less onerous (or so we’re telling ourselves).

I am especially excited to park the sprayer – we are planning to grow our vegetables without pesticides, something we could not do with fruit. Our fertility will continue to be mostly supplied by manure & compost. With more land available, we will increase our use of cover crops, green manures & crop rotation. Our goal is to raise healthy, delicious vegetables for us & our customers!

Another big change will be our labour force. For more than 45 years we have employed offshore workers from Mexico during the growing along with Canadian workers, mostly students. Next season we will only be using local workers. We have had some really great students throughout the years & are optimistic we’ll continue to find willing & capable workers. Anyone looking for work next summer!?

These are exciting times at Thiessen Farms – exciting and a bit scary too! Change always is. But we are optimistic for the future & looking forward to our new venture. We hope you come along with us!

Already the first seed catalogue came in the mail the other day. So many things to grow, new vegetables to try …





















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Good bye farmers’ markets!

This past Thursday was our last market day for the season – and what a day it was!

Mel Lastman Square in North York is usually a windy spot, but this week was extreme. With a wind warning in the forecast we knew better than to put up our canopy even though we needed protection from a few lingering showers – leftovers from Wednesday’s heavy rains. Fortunately the day was mild (12 C) & the showers were over by daybreak. Then the winds whipped up & the temperatures dropped …

We set out a lean market display. Hot peppers, walnuts & mini calico corn stayed in the van. We knew they would blow away. Squash, cabbage & pears were weighty enough to withstand the gusts! No signs or pricecards, recipe booklets or anything that could not be secured.

But sales were good! Many of our regulars braved the gales to purchase that last basket of pears or stock up on squash.  Some came just to say good-bye, wish us a good winter, and thank us for coming to Toronto with our produce. We even sold out of hot peppers & walnuts!

Our final Saturday market in Georgetown the other week was also marked by extreme weather – snowflurries & sub-zero temperatures. That day it was the lettuce that couldn’t be put out on the table, for fear it would freeze! (That actually happened a few years ago when freezing temperatures turned our lettuce black right on the table!)

Now that markets are over, we will miss our fellow vendors & our customers. What we won’t miss is the 3:30 AM alarm, loading & unloading the truck, the highway traffic …


Setting up in the dark at North York – a few weeks ago.


Our market season began in spring with uncertainty. We decided to drop 1 market, anticipating a smaller fruit crop due to damage from the cold winter. It proved to be the right choice. Our crops were indeed lighter & we would not have had enough fruit for all the markets & our CSA.

But overall we had a great market season. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Strong sales – our sales were up over the previous year. Vendors at other markets also reported increased sales.
  • Flavour – week after week our customers raved about the outstanding taste of the fruit & vegetables this season. We are thankful for lots of sunshine & timely rains on the farm which were the main factors responsible for this great flavour.
  • Good weather – while showers & rain were in the forecast many market days, the precipitation often waited until we were driving home. There was very little rain during market hours.
  • Safety – we are very thankful for a safe & accident-free summer on the roads, at the market & at home on the farm.
  • Great customers – we have so many regular customers who support the markets and all the vendors each week. Your appreciation & encouragement make the markets worthwhile and the comments & critiques make us better growers.

Thanks for a great market season! 

See you in spring!






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CSA 2015 – Final Week!

Our last big crop of the season is squash & pumpkins. Most of them are now in bins in the barn & ready for selling – and eating!



This year we grew about 30 varieties of squash & pumpkins. We choose as many colours & shapes as possible to make for an eye-catching display at market. And of course flavour is very important! There isn’t enough space on our farm to grow a lot of any of these – just enough for CSA & our farmers’ markets.

Here are pictures & descriptions of most of them. (The same gourds are in each picture to give some idea of the relative size of each squash.)

Butternut – everyone’s favourite squash. Rich orange flesh with a nutty flavour. We grew 5 different kinds of butternut – various sizes.


Black Futsu -bright orange flesh with the flavour of hazelnuts.


Sunshine – a beautiful, bright orange squash (inside & out) with a sweet & somewhat dry texture. Sunshine are great for pies, baking & mashing.


Blue Hubbard (heirloom) – an old variety that is large, yellow-fleshed, somewhat dry, and not too sweet.


Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato (heirloom) – a small, sweet, tasty, acorn squash.


Jarrahdale (heirloom) – a beautiful, slate-grey, high quality, delicious pumpkin.


Long Island Cheese (heirloom) – tasty pumpkin that looks like a wheel of cheese.


Boston Marrow (heirloom) – large, dry & sweet, with good flavour.


North Georgia Candy Roaster (heirloom) – a long, banana shaped squash with sweet, orange flesh.


Moranga (heirloom) – a pink to salmon coloured squash from Brazil used to make a traditional “camaraona moranga” or shrimp in a squash.


Tetsukabuto – deep yellow flesh with a sweet, nutty flavour & smooth texture.


Stripetti – a spaghetti/sweet potato cross. The flesh is stringy like spaghetti! More flavour than a plain spaghetti squash.


Australian Butter (heirloom) – beautiful, peach coloured squash from Australia with good flavour.


Musquee de Provence (French heirloom) – The flesh is deep orange, rich & moderately sweet. The outside turns a rich brown colour as it ages.


Red Warty Thing or Victor (heirloom) – gorgeous, red-orange, large squash covered in bumps.


Galeux d’Eysines (heirloom) – commonly called “peanut” squash. A pale pink squash covered in warts or peanuts, & used for soup in France.


Porcelain Doll – a pink pumpkin used for pies, soups …


Sweet Dumpling – small, individual sized squash with very sweet, moist, yellow flesh.


Mini-squashHoneynut (mini butternut), Gold Nugget (mini orange hubbard) & Shokichi Shiro (mini kabocha).


Assorted small pumpkins


What’s in the box?

Squash, Bosc pears, tomatoes, sweet peppers.

extras – hot peppers & Bartlett pears.

  • Your choice of a few squashes this week! Not all the varieties listed above will be available – but there will be a good selection! Squash can be stored for a few weeks & up to several months for some kinds. It is important to keep them dry & cool. The easiest method (& our favourite way) to prepare squash is to slice it in half, scoop out the seeds and bake it – usually at 350 C. until it is soft when poked with a fork (approx. 45 minutes to an hour depending on size). Bake it cut side up or cut side down – it really doesn’t matter. Then scrape the flesh out of the skin, mash & enjoy. You can add brown sugar or maple syrup if you prefer a sweeter squash, or just salt & pepper.
  • The Bosc pears in your box are still very hard & green. They will take more than a week or 2 to ripen. Bosc are at their peak for eating when they begin to turn a golden brown colour. If kept refrigerated, they will last until Christmas.
  • Tomatoes & sweet peppers are coming to an end along with the CSA. Enjoy the last of them!
  • There are still hot peppers available.
  • So many of you have said how delicious the Bartlett pears are. Grab another basket if you want more. Eat them now while you wait for your Bosc pears to ripen.

This is the final week of our CSA for this season!

Thank you to all our members for being a part of this adventure in fresh eating! We hope you enjoyed all the vegetables & fruit. 

See you next year! 

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CSA 2015 – Week 17

The season is coming to an end.

The orchards are empty – all the trees are picked.

Many of the vegetables fields are empty too.

Our last workers are leaving this week – one going home to Mexico, and one going to work at a greenhouse operation for a few months.

Our CSA program is wrapping up – only 1 more week after this one.

But the season is not completely finished.

While the orchards are empty, the cold storage is full of pears to be packed.


We are still picking some vegetables – tomatoes (mostly just some small cherries), eggplant (though the plants are going downhill fast), kale (still going strong), peppers (both sweet & hot continue to slowly ripen), and maybe some lettuce (here’s hoping the last planting will mature in time & still taste good). But our ambition & enthusiasm for harvesting is fading as fast (or faster) than the plants.

The squash & pumpkins are picked, but mostly still curing out in the fields & waiting to be hauled into the barn.



We washed the last of the gourds today – it’s time for fall decorating! Our market displays are very colourful this time of the year.


Although the CSA is finishing, but the farmers’ markets continue – one closes after Thanksgiving & the other goes right until the end of October.

Our days begin a little later now as the sun is slower to rise in the morning. It sure was beautiful this morning!


What’s in the box?

Squash, tomatoes, sweet peppers, garlic, kale, Bartlett pears.

extras – hot peppers.

  • The first taste of squash will be in your box this week. Next week’s newsletter will have pictures & descriptions of the many kinds we grow. Some will be familiar & others are less common.
  • The cooler weather on the weekend immediately slowed down the ripening of the tomatoes & peppers. Enjoy them, as they are coming to an end.
  • Another garlic bulb is part of your share this week. We have all the garlic trimmed & cleaned. Now we have to count out enough for planting & then we can see if there will be more for CSA next week or not?
  • Kale is one crop that likes the cooler fall weather. It gets sweeter as the weather gets colder!
  • Can you guess that there is an abundance of Bartlett pears this year! Your box will include another basket this week. They will be greener & will last longer – especially if stored in the fridge.
  • A selection of hot peppers will again be available for those who enjoy them.

Here are a few pictures of last week’s CSA pick-up …




Only 1 more week left for CSA 2015!


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CSA 2015 – Week 16

The rain on the weekend was very welcome!

Things were quite dry on our farm, and the trees & vegetables were looking a bit weary after the heat of the previous weeks. However, 2 days of rain perked them up & freshened up the entire farm (including weeds).


But it certainly looks like fall here.

Many of our tomatoes – especially the heirlooms – are brown & dying back. Other, like these cherry tomatoes are growing wild & unruly and still pumping out the fruit.




There is only 1 row of peaches yet to be harvested.


Some years when it is cool, these later peaches have little colour, and a dry texture. This season thanks to all that warmth we have had, they are colourful & flavourful – sweet & juicy!


The Bosc pears are still on the trees & will be picked this week.



A new planting of kale ready to be cut.




What’s in the box?

Green beans, cabbage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, Bartlett pears, Seckel pears.

Extras – peaches, hot peppers.

  • A late summer planting has produced a bounty of beautiful green beans. We had some at dinner today & they taste wonderful!
  • The cabbage that looked so good the other week is being eaten rapidly by … ? Good thing we planted lots – there will be enough for our CSA boxes this week!


It may be the light green, tender, early cabbage that we had a few weeks ago, or the darker green, more robust late cabbage. Then there are some “conehead” cabbages – something new for us this season – that are round at the bottom & pointy on top.


  • Sweet peppers & tomatoes continue to be a part of your share, though perhaps in smaller quantities.
  • It’s fall – pear season! This week there will again be 2 kinds of pears – Bartletts & the little Seckel “lunchbox” pears. A reminder again that pears can change from almost ripe to overripe very quickly. Store them in the fridge. One way to use very ripe pears is to make pear sauce – just like applesauce, but made with pears! Peel, chop, cook, add some sugar & mush them up. It’s easy & delicious!
  • An extra this week – peaches. There will be some #2 grade peaches available for those who want that final taste of summer!

After this week, there will be 2 more weeks in our CSA program for 2015!

Here’s what to expect in your box these final 2 weeks – garlic, pears, squash, sweet peppers, tomatoes, kale …

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CSA 2015 – Week 15

Today was labour day, and we certainly laboured – in the heat & humidity!

The last of the Bartlett pears were picked today. It was a good crop so there are lots of pears for our CSA shares, and to sell at the markets.


The Seckel pears are also picked. These are a very small pear compared to a Bartlett.


Pears are always picked rather green & hard, and then ripened once picked. A Bartlett will get sweeter & sweeter as it softens & turns yellow. A Seckel stays firm (it will never get soft), but tastes sweet – but probably not as sweet as the Bartlett.

I continued to cut down sweet cherry trees today. Once the trees are gone it gives the farm a whole new look – one that takes a bit of getting used to!


The heat & humidity cause an increase in mildew on the squash, gourds & pumpkin plants. As their leaves get diseased and then dry up the squash is revealed, and we finally see what sort of crop there is. We will begin harvest in a week or so.


What’s in the box?

Seckel pears, Bartlett pears, Damson plums, tomatoes, sweet peppers, garlic.

extras – hot peppers …

  • Seckel pears (see brief description & picture above) are the perfect fruit for lunch boxes! Small, firm & tasty, they take up little room, are not easily bruised, and taste great!
  • Bartlett pears are a favourite pear for many people! They are great for eating fresh, baking, cooking, jam, sauce … The pears in your box this week have been ripening in the barn for about a week already. Some will still be a bit firm while others are beginning to soften. We recommend you check them over. If you prefer a firm pear, store them in the fridge immediately. If a soft & yellow pear is your choice, let them sit out on the counter for a day or so – but keep your eye on them. Pears change from almost ripe to over-ripe very quickly! It may be better to keep them refrigerated & bring them out a day or so before you will eat them.
  • The only plum variety that had much of a crop this season was the Damsons. In fact we’ve never had so many Damsons! They are a small, round, somewhat tart plum – especially amazing in jam or baking! But let them get slightly soft & they sweeten up & taste great. There will be some damsons in your CSA share this week. Give them a try & see how you like them!
  • Along with the fruit, your box will also contain tomatoes, sweet peppers & a bulb of fresh garlic. The garlic is dried, so store it at room temperature in a dry place. It is not necessary to keep garlic in the fridge.
  • Hot peppers are an extra again this week.

Here is a Damson plum recipe that a customer from market recommended. She also brought us a sample – it was great!!


Original Plum Torte

  • Time1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield 8 servings


Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times


  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 24 halves pitted purple plums
  • Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamonfor topping


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.
  3. Spoon the batter into a spring form of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with (about) 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.
  4. Bake one hour, approximately. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream.
  5. To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.


  • To freeze, double-wrap the tortes in foil, place in a plastic bag and seal.



Not everyone was labouring today!



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CSA 2015 – Week 14

Today I’m feeling both happy and sad.

Today I began to cut down our sweet cherry trees – all of them!

We talk about it every year, but this time we are really doing it. All our cherry trees are coming down (except for the few trees in front of the barn – the ones that provide a screen between us & the road).

But certainly all the rest of the cherry trees are going to be history.

It’s sad because they do have a lot of history. Most were planted by my father years ago. Many of them are older than me. I know each tree because I’m the one who has pruned them each spring for more than 30 years. I picked the cherries on these trees when I was a boy. I know which trees ripen their cherries first, which ones always have a heavy crop & where the sweetest fruit can be found. I know where to duck my head when driving through the orchard to avoid the low branches – without even looking ..

I’m happy, very happy because we won’t have the stress of cherry season anymore. “Expect a good crop 1 out of 5 years” is what the old-timers used to say. I say that’s pretty optimistic. It seems that almost every year either the crop is poor, or we get rain at the wrong time & the cherries crack & rot, or the market is slow, or prices are low, or we can’t find people to pick … No, we definitely won’t miss cherry season & all it entails.

I will miss eating cherries ripe off the tree though!





Anyone need some good firewood?

What’s in the box?

Garlic, shallots, kale, tomatoes, sweet peppers, peaches.

extras – eggplant, hot peppers

  • The first of the garlic is finally dry & ready – and it tastes great!
  • This is the first time we have grown shallots & we’re a bit surprised by their large size and beautiful colour. Good Housekeeping says that shallots are similar to an onion, “their flavor is richer, sweeter, yet more potent. Like garlic, they grow in clusters, with several bulbs attached at the base. You’ll recognize them by their coppery skins and their off-white flesh, which is usually tinged with magenta. Shallots add a great depth of flavor to pan sautés, soups, sauces, and stews, and pair especially well with chicken and fish. To substitute one for the other in recipes, use half the amount of shallot that you would onion”. Try our shallots & let us know how you like them.
  • Your green this week is kale. Enjoy it raw in a salad, sautéed with your shallot, or blended in your morning smoothie.
  • Tomatoes continue – in abundance. Our go-to lunch these days includes tomatoes, onion, eggplant & garlic sauteed together & eaten on toast – quick, easy & delicious! Enjoy the different colours, & sizes & shapes in your box this week!
  • There will be another sweet pepper in your share. But the plants are hanging full of peppers & sooner or later there will be more.
  • Peaches! The season is winding down & we only have a few varieties of peaches left to harvest. This may be the final week that peaches are part of your CSA. For anyone thinking of purchasing extra peaches to can or freeze – this is the week to do it!
  • extras – more eggplant along with hot peppers. We are growing about 25 kinds of hot peppers this season. The first of them are ready & will be available for those who want them. They will be the milder Hungarian hot wax peppers and jalapenos. The hotter varieties won’t be ripe for a few weeks yet.


This week our ducks found their wings & are enjoying the wonders of flight. They like to see things from a higher vantage point!







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