We both grew up in gardening families. So the first Spring after we were married, Jeannie eagerly looked forward to planting a garden. Jerry wasn’t so sure about the idea as his memories of gardening were limited to weeding. However, once the garden was planted and the seeds started to sprout, Jerry was hooked! Before Christmas of that year, he had the graph paper out and was plotting where each plant would go in our next garden!
Every year thereafter, we expanded our gardening and tried new things. In 1994 we erected our first greenhouse in Jeannie’s parents’ yard. It measured 12’x30’. Oh, the things we learned in that space! Probably the most significant, was Jerry’s passion for growing plants, especially greenhouse plants.
In 1996 we moved from Lumby, B.C. to the small town of Lavoy, AB. Jerry took up the challenge of developing an agriculture program for a small missionary college. That spring was cold, windy and wet. The cucumbers didn’t want to grow; the row covers continually blew off; mud was everywhere. However, in addition to the garden, Jerry continued to pursue his greenhousing interests. Gaining valuable insights from the Crop Diversification Centres, government specialists, and other resources, Jerry built up a thriving greenhouse business for the college.
Our next adventure in greenhousing came when we moved to Creston, BC in 2002. Jerry managed a vegetable greenhouse there, but after only a short time realized that managing a greenhouse for owners who had little concern about toxic sprays and lacked appreciation for excellence in quality was not in his future. So we started the search for a greenhouse of our own.
We truly believe God led us to our present greenhouse. In 2002, we learned of a used greenhouse for sale northwest of Saskatoon, SK. Through a series of amazing events, we were able to purchase the greenhouse at a fraction of the cost of a new one. The sellers generously dismantled it, bolt by bolt, and trucked it to our site at no extra cost to us! They even included extra supplies and equipment. We thank God for their generosity.
September 5, 2003, our first seedlings arrived and we filled the greenhouse with beautiful, young plants. Unbeknown to us, those beautiful plants harboured powdery mildew and melon aphids. By the time we knew what we were dealing with, the disease and pests were out of control. We fought back with every biological we could get our hands on. Multiple bags of ladybugs were released; we brought in wasps and lacewing; we sprayed baking soda-water-soap solutions on the mildew. Nothing seemed to stop the advance of our little enemies. Our only hope seemed to lie in applying a foliar spray or feed the plants chemicals that would kill off the pests. However, we had committed to growing without toxic chemicals. Faced with the gloomy options of business failure, or failure to keep true to our commitment, we chose to take our losses and stick with our commitment. We lost really badly that year.
The next year we took the advice of our advisors and brought in the ladybugs, wasps and other biological controls before we spotted problems. But once again, we battled the mildew and aphids.
Finally we realized that our best hope was to raise our own seedlings. So in 2005, we ordered seeds instead of plants and went to work. And it was work. We gained a new appreciation for bedding plant growers! But the work paid off! We had a much better season with much less trouble with diseases and pests. We faced challenges with keeping the seedlings warm enough, but when we set them out in the greenhouse, we realized a definite benefit -- the plants suffered very little transplant shock, and soon were growing strong. Since then, we`ve raised all our own plants from seed and are very pleased with the results.
Every year we try new varieties and leave off some old ones with the goal of developing the perfect product line for you, our customer. We look for excellent flavour, good keeping qualities and beauty. At present we are growing seven tomato varieties - a flavour-packed Beefsteak, a beautiful, tasty Tomato-on-the-vine, a very sweet Cherry, a delicious Grape, a flavour-burst Cocktail, a low-acid juicy Yellow and a more meaty low-acid orange. Our 2 types of cucumbers are a crisp and flavourful Pickler; and the all-time favourite Mini Cucumber. In addition to the tomatoes and cucumbers, we offer 5 colours of Sweet Bell Peppers: Purple, Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red as well as a beautiful Eggplant. If you visit us at the greenhouse or a farmers’ market you also have the option of living lettuce, fresh herbs, and in season, delicious garden zucchini and winter squash.
We enjoy many benefits as a small family-run business. Deciding which benefit is the greatest is difficult as we value each one. Seeing our customers so very satisfied with a good-tasting local product is very gratifying. Many of them tell us of how they just don’t buy unless they can buy ours. When mothers tell us of having to hide the cherry tomatoes from the kids so they’ll last a while, we chuckle! When others say they’ve quit unhealthy snacks and munch on our cucumbers while watching TV, we smile! How rewarding to supply something healthful that tastes so very good!
Having our children with us while we work is a huge benefit. There are so many things the girls can do to experience life with us. They work alongside us as we plant the seeds and transplant the young plants. They work on pruning, picking, packaging. They attend farmers’ markets and help with customer service. Certainly a huge bonus to our homeschooling program!