The month of May’s Sow and Tell features Fisherville Greenhouses, one of our newest farm partners! As Cindy Mueller says herself, she and Ron have farming in their blood. Both Cindy and Ron grew up on family farms, and they both studied horticulture at Guelph University. In fact, that’s where they met! After finishing their respective MsC’s, Cindy spent time working in flower greenhouses. They’ve always had a dream of buying their own farm and running their own business, and in 2006 that dream came to fruition when they bought their farm located in Fisherville, Ontario. The farm also came with ½ acre greenhouses, which is where most of their non-certified organic greens and veggies are grown.
Our team was lucky enough to go visit Cindy at the farm earlier in the week to tour the greenhouses and learn more about how they farm. Cindy and Ron have organized their greenhouses together, but Ron spends most of his time off-site working as a plant nutritionist in Guelph (often with wineries). It’s Cindy who does the majority of the farm work and runs their CSA program with over 50 members, and their three kids help out on the weekends.
How did things work in the beginning?
In the early years of their farm, Cindy and Ron primarily grew grape tomatoes. Part of why they chose tomatoes in the beginning was because the water in Fisherville is very high in sulphur, which yields great tasting tomatoes! Eventually, however, market forces changed and growing just tomatoes stopped being financially stable. So like many of the farms we work with, Cindy and Ron decided it was time to innovate, which is why they began their CSA program. (For those who may not know, CSA stands for community supported agriculture and involves buying very small shares in a farm and getting a weekly household box of assorted produce during the season direct from the farm).
In addition to their CSA program, they have enjoyed branching out to sell to us – their very first local distribution partner! As Cindy joked to us, ‘we’ve been searching for you guys for 10 years!’. Cindy pointed out that in the earlier days, they were selling tomatoes to some restaurants in the Guelph region. But in addition to running a farm and raising a family, getting produce to chefs became too much of a logistical challenge. This is something we hear from our farms a lot. Logistics and distribution might not be the most romantic or cool link in the food chain, but it’s a crucial one!
What do they grow, and how do they grow it?
Cindy and Ron love to experiment, and are constantly testing out new crops. Since it’s two smaller greenhouses, they have a lot of freedom to try things out. One of the cool things they have done was plant dwarf cherry trees to act as hedges between sections. Below is a picture of the greenhouses with lots of different varieties!
As we walked through the greenhouses, Cindy gave us a better sense of their biological practices and principals that guide Fisherville. All of their greens are non-certified organic. They do their best to manage everything with biological controls, which includes integrated pest management systems. They use parasitic wasps for white flies, persimilis for spider mites, and they have used banker plants before for aphids. If IPM doesn’t work, they will only ever spray using organic sprays. Cindy keeps some pesticides on hand for the other greenhouse, but as she pointed out, she can’t remember the last time those were used.
In time for this feature, Fisherville has added some new varieties to their listing: beefsteak tomatoes, baby romaine lettuce, bull’s blood beet greens and ruby red swiss chard! As the season progresses, lots more products will become available. We’re looking forward to seeing what Cindy and Ron have in store!
By: Genrys Goodchild