Mennonites get a jump-start on the growing season with wood-heated greenhouses
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It takes a Mennonite family farm to get a jump-start on the growing season in the North.
Black River Country Gardens from Matheson was able to bring fresh green vegetables that they grew themselves to the downtown Timmins farmers’ market in the Urban Park Thursday because they’ve been operating their wood-heated greenhouses since mid-March.
Vegetables are seeded in the greenhouse and then planted in the field.
Owner Paul Bowman told The Daily Press the season has been good this year, and even his strawberries were early. Since the Bowman family only drives a horse and buggy, they hired a driver, Dan DeMarchi, to drive them to market. They are certified organic with Eco Cert.
Nicole and Allen Graham, over at Graham Acres, also appreciate the special Mennonite green thumbs. They were selling perfect-looking broccoli from Countryside Market, a co-op for Mennonite producers in Val Gagné.
The Daily Press asked Samuel Martin from Countryside why Mennonites seem to have so much success.
“Heritage,” he replied. “That’s exactly it, heritage, if you grew up to be a farmer.”
Sunrise Orchards, a small grocery store from Smooth Rock Falls, brought in field strawberries from Leisure Farms in Sturgeon Falls. They brought fresh peas and potatoes from small local area farmers who only make their produce available in the farmers’ market circuit. They’ve known all their suppliers for decades, they said.
“We know who grows it and how they grow it,” said owner Marion Veens. “We go and pick it up twice a week and it’s in our cooler for less than two days. That’s our motto ‘two days, that’s it.'”
There are important differences between large grocery chains and farmers’ markets when it comes to freshness, explained Veens. Large grocery chains put tender fruit (peaches, plums and cherries) into commercial coolers that suck out the moisture, resulting in “stringy peaches,” she said. “If you can tell me every week that you can get non-stringy peaches, then OK, but that doesn’t happen.”
Tender fruit will be available later in the season.
More summer greenery could be seen at “Fancy Plants,” a seller of houseplants. Owner Melissa Silverson started the company during the pandemic. The stay-at-home mom had joined a Facebook group where members traded house plant cuttings. Demand for her houseplants “exploded,” she said, such that she started running her own company out of her home for a year and is now planning to move into a retail space downtown. She was one of the five finalists for the “Win this Space,” competition hosted recently by the Downtown Timmins Business Improvement Association.
Many professionals on their lunch break could pick up prepared Chilean empanadas, which sold out within the first hour, according to Carmen Pisarro. Cuban pulled-pork sandwiches were also popular. Both Latin American options are available exclusively at the downtown farmers’ market, Thursdays from 11 am to 2 pm, until Aug. 25th