Don and Jane Kouri are happy and hard working. At a time when they could be relaxing, retiring and looking out the windows of their century farmhouse to the green fields and grape vines they are taking a risk and a new adventure and doing Value Added to their farm. Value Added described as, “Extra” feature(s) of an item of interest (product, service, person etc.) that go beyond the standard expectations and provide something “more”. They are adding something more. This winter finds them adding a new line to the products they take to the local farmers markets. Presently they attend the Binbrook and Grimsby Farmer’s Market with grapes, plums, apples, pears and peaches. They also bring along their home grown bottled Grape juice, Cherry juice and Cranberry- Grape juice in 1 litre bottles. This year they will be (value) adding their own bottled apple cider produced from the 12 different varieties of apples that they grow. The bottles will be 12 oz in size and sold deliciously cold; perfect for drinking while at the market or for taking home to put in lunches. A glass bottle that is vacuumed sealed like the old mason jars will provide the taste like it “just came off the tree,” they share. With no preservatives added. They hope to bottle 1,000 bottles to start off this new enterprise. The no additives are welcomed by all but particularly by young mothers who will use it for drinks or to make delectable fruit popsicles.
The Concord Mountain Farm on Thirty Road is the home of Don and Jane, “two people with high energy,” says Jane. “We are fruit farmers but Don is also a respected teacher at Mohawk College in the faculty of Electrical Engineering. Don became an electrician in his twenties, a technologist in his thirties, received his BA in his forties, his MA in his fifties and his PhD in his sixties all while raising 5 children and running a successful 78 acre farm.” “It was always our dream to farm,” says Don, and twenty two years ago they purchased the farm on 30 Road. At that time it was a dairy farm with a few fruit trees. Planting more fruit was their goal, a goal with hardships along the way. With contracts with St. Davids and with Cadburys both which closed down they had to find their own resources to be successful.
A roadside stand was built as they thought that would be a good way to sell their fruit. Then one day as Don was picking the suckers off his 1500 tomato plants (that is a story for another day) he looked over and saw two older ladies loading up their car with all the fresh produce. Great, he thought this is going to be very successful. He decided not to bother them as they filled their car and didn’t venture over till later in the day. What did he find? They not only filled their car with all the produce, they took the cash box and the cash too!
The local Farmers Market became their new project. They look forward each year to the new start up of the market, “because we bottle our own juice we receive great joy when someone tells us they enjoy our juice. When you take a product from beginning to end you receive a great deal of personal satisfaction,” they say.
“Farming is a wonderful lifestyle,” says both Don and Jane. “We know all our neighbours and yet we have our privacy. We like farming and we like living in the farming community. It is quiet and peaceful here on the farm and we can look out the windows and see an abundance of wild life, hawks, pheasants and deer. It is a healthy lifestyle. We like nothing more than working in the fields, it is something we enjoy.” But they worry about the future of farming, “young people can’t afford to get into farming, the cost of the land, the upkeep of the buildings and yet once you pave over the land you will never get it back.”
Farming and school teaching aren’t the only things keeping these two busy. Jane has her book club and bridge and Tai Chi. She is on a committee at church and they are lucky enough to attend a church with lots of social events. Don likes going off to Tim Hortons to tell ‘tall tales’ with the other farmers, volunteering with the Niagara North Federation of Agriculture and helping present the educational day at the West Niagara Fair.
And Don is thinking about retiring from Mohawk College. “I believe in education,” says Don. “Without it I wouldn’t be able to build my own juice plant or run a successful farm business.” If he does retire from being a school teacher maybe sleeping will be on his list of accomplishments.