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. (http://thiessenfarms.com/2015/08/31/csa-2015-week-14/)
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 …