Who are the new owners of Sovereign Farms?
This past year, Brenda and Wes Sovereign from Sovereign farms retired from farming and the farm is now under new ownership! We wanted to thank Brenda and Wes for their years of partnership with 100km Foods producing greenhouse tomatoes, as well as many varieties of zucchini, peppers, and beans!
We also wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to the new owners of Sovereign Farms and share their story, and that’s why we think they are a perfect fit for this month’s Sow and Tell series.
For deliveries July 18th through to July 21st, their grape tomatoes and mosaic mix are on sale! You can find these in the ‘sale’ category on the website.
So, who are the new owners of Sovereign Farms?
Debbie Scheeringa has always been passionate about horticulture, and it was a long-held dream of hers to someday run a family farm. A few years ago, Debbie and her husband Shane began searching for farms in the Southern Ontario region. It was around this time that Brenda and Wes Sovereign, who have been farmers for many years, decided it was time to sell their farm and retire.
Debbie and Shane were viewing at a recreational horse farm near Sovereign when their realtor mentioned offhand a farm nearby that might be of interest to them. They connected with Wes and Brenda, and a natural fit was found. Debbie and Shane liked the idea of an established farm, and it was important to Brenda to sell their beloved farm and greenhouse operation to a family who wanted to continue to use the land for agricultural production!
Debbie, Shane and their two children moved up to Sovereign this past winter. Brenda has been on hand each week to help Debbie and Shane with the transition for this first growing season (when we asked about Wes, they laughed and told us “we think he’s just been catching up on sleep!”). They also employ a team of dedicated, hard working and efficient migrant labourers from Jamaica who have been a tremendous source of support as Debbie and Shane learn more about greenhouses and field crops!
Jason and I went up to visit Sovereign this week to learn more about their current operation, as well as get a sense of their future. By the way – Sovereign Farms will eventually be renamed! We will keep you posted on when that transition happens.
Upon arriving at Sovereign, we were greeted by Shadow and Luna, their two friendly dogs. We also got to briefly meet some new kittens. After meeting their kids, Debbie and Shane took us around the greenhouses and the farm. Their energetic young son Nolan also accompanied us on this adventure – he’s a mischievous vegetable lover known to pilfer tomatoes, rhubarb, and zucchini on occasion!
Here’s what we learned:
- Their main crop is greenhouse tomatoes. These are the grape tomatoes, mosaic, beefsteak, roma, and heirloom tomatoes you all know and love! They’ve faced some challenges in their first season – as mentioned last week – controlling temperatures in the greenhouse has been very tricky. Production has been slower than usual because of the lack of sunlight.
- Though an older greenhouse, it’s a very efficient facility. Debbie showed us the computer system that monitors the ph levels of the soil, temperature, humidity to maintain optimal growing conditions.
- The tomatoes are picked by labourers who are seated on little carts that run on tracks between them.
- Optimal temperature for growing tomatoes is 18-19 degrees celsius! Though we all know about the importance of sunlight, moonlight is also a very important factor in the growth of tomatoes.
- They use integrated, natural pest control methods for the micro climate of the greenhouse – situated around the greenhouse are mullen plants. Mullen plants are the homes of the parasitoid wasps that keep caterpillar infestations at bay. They do this by laying their eggs into the caterpillar, and once the wasps hatch, they devour the caterpillars from the inside out. Kinda gross, kinda cool, kinda sinister – and very efficient!
- They also have lots of bumblebee homes in the greenhouse to aid with flower pollination.
- They also have some field crops – zucchini, beans, and hot peppers!
- For a relatively small acreage, the farm is very productive!
What can we expect for the future of Sovereign Farms?
Though they are still quite busy getting established in farming, Debbie has many exciting plans for the future of their farm! She is keen to experiment with new varieties and crops that may do well with their soil type and weather patterns. A new variety of zucchini they’ve planted this season is Ishtar zucchini, known for being a light green, sweeter Lebanese variety. Debbie and Shane are also very interested in transitioning towards using even more ecologically minded practices with the aim of ensuring top notch, healthy soil.
Debbie and Shane know that there will be challenges ahead, but they feel excited to meet them. They also noted the generosity of the new farming community they’ve entered. Debbie and Shane both stressed how helpful, enthusiastic, and patient fellow farmers have been in answering questions, helping out, and teaching! Shane told us farmers markets have quickly become a valuable hub for impromptu troubleshooting as challenges arise.
We are really looking forward to continuing to work with Debbie and Shane, and we wish all the best for Brenda and Wes in their retirement! Don’t forget – their grape and mosaic tomatoes are on sale for all deliveries next week!
Many thanks to Debbie and Shane for hosting us on their farm.
By: Genrys Goodchild