“Buying local, as long as the price is right,” is what the customers of Debbie Hipple want. They want to come to the farm fruit stand purchase their fruits and vegetables from the farmer and take it home and eat it fresh and even can it. “More and more people are canning again, because they trust Canadian fruit. We are growing more tomatoes for sauce making then ever before. “It is our job to educate the consumer on where their food is grown,” explains Debbie.
Debbie didn’t grow up on a farm but she came to the farm, “with my eyes open,” she shares with a chuckle. “I came from Beamsville and I worked on farms, and I have tried everything. I have tied grapes, packed fruit, managed the payroll and established and run our fruit stand. Our fruit stand on Hwy 8 is open 7 days a week, 10 hours a day. We have help from students to keep it running, but I enjoy talking to all the customers.” Debbie has another passion and that is quilting, but that is a story for another day. You will recognize her stand by the sign up on top, ‘long arm quilting available’. Surely many have wondered why that sign is on the fruit stand.
Debbie married into the Hipple family. A family that came from Pennsylvania in the 1800’s and settled in the Vineland area. Today Debbie and Larry’s son David, who also helps to run the farm, is a 7th generation farmer. David’s two girls will be 8th generation farmers. They being only one and three years old have a bit of time before they learn the art of making baskets and picking fruit.
Together Larry, Debbie and David manage one hundred and sixty acres of tender fruit; their main crops being cherries, plums, peaches, pears, nectarines, raspberries, apricots and grapes. At one time the farm, as many farms were, they were self sufficient. Livestock and corn to feed the livestock was grown on the acreage. As time evolved and the farms progressed from son to son the cattle were sold and the corn was replaced by new fruit trees. Still today the spring brings the planting of new trees.
The farm is a full time job for Larry, Debbie and David and a seasonal job for local people, students and workers from Mexico. There are sales through the fruit stand, sales through Vineland growers and the sale of their grapes to Diamond Estates Winery. The planting, growing, tending, marketing and paper work keep all of them very busy.
Larry is sixty four. He has lived on the farm his whole life; although he took a bit of time away from the farm to attend Guelph University.
And what did he excel at? His best marks were in fruit growing! What does he like about the farm? “I am my own boss,” he says, “I make my own hours, (and they are many), I work really hard in the spring and summer and fall and in the winter I get some time to relax. “I can have a day off without asking anyone BUT, only as long as everything is going right,” he smiles.
What does he like to do in his spare time? Stay outdoors naturally, curling, skiing and boating up north. “Because of David I can get more time off and go boating or to the cottage and do some fishing.”
What is hard about farming? Larry puts it plainly. “Not making a lot of money!” “The profit is less, the returns are not what they need to be and we are always thinking of labour savings and cash flow. To produce more product from our land we have to have high density plantings and we have found that more irrigation pays off. There is always the weather to contend with. Frost, drought, winds, and rain will hamper our crop and then we will lose our market. And there is more and more paperwork every year.”
And in the future, where will Hipples farm be? “We will be right here paying our bills. We can’t walk away from the family farm; you can’t sell off your land to offset a bad year. We will keep working towards higher production on less land. We will do everything we can to keep diversifying and adapt to the changing markets says Larry.”
David was part of the land from the time he could walk. “The earth stuck to him from day one,” says his Mom Debbie with a laugh. “He was always dirty.” And from the age of three he told his Mom, he didn’t need to go to school as he was going to be a farmer. Luckily Debbie convinced him he would need to learn how to read to be able to read the sprayer books.
David began his farming career just as most potential farmers do packing and making containers. He always planned on coming back to the farm; he always wanted to live on the farm. He did however attend school and pursued an educational path that was akin to his talents. Always one to take apart every toy and to build ‘neat thing’ led him to further his education at McMaster University in Engineering Physics. How does that apply to the farm? Well what do most farmers find they must do in their daily lives? Fix things! And improve things! Today he uses his upbringing and education together to manage the land, fixing, building, designing and rejuvenating equipment on the farm. Why does he stay on the farm? A quote on the family website written by David tells all “I wish I could post the smell of being surrounded by billions of tiny flowers! This is the time of year where most fruit farms look like they grow flowers not great tasting fruit.” Surrounded by flowers, stuck to the earth and rejuvenating equipment, maybe the perfect life! The perfect life to farmers!
David also has several other lives. He is a husband and father to two girls and they all live on the family farm. And he shares a passion for inventing and building things with a friend.
Located in the small town of Lincoln, Ontario, Lincoln Designs specializes in building robust solutions for any problem. Currently they build solid treatment tables for the osteopathic profession, multi-split dual action log splitters with a future plan on fabricating custom built trailers, and soil moisture sensors with purpose built software. As well as any other product a client needs.
The Hipple family passions may be diversified; growing, quilting, boating, inventing and building but All members of the family agree: “the return might not be great but we love the life we have here on the farm.”
To find out more about the Hipple farms and updates on their crop go to www.hipples.ca.
To find out more about Lincoln Designs go to www.lincolndesigns.ca