By Ann Marie Chechalk
If both your parents/grandparents were farmers, then maybe it is in your blood, or maybe you like the feeling of fresh air on your face and dirt under your fingernails. Or maybe it is time alone with your thoughts that leads you back to the land and a chance to try a little market gardening?
In a time when the average age of a farmer in Ontario is Fifty plus, these two ‘farmers’ have chosen to try a little farming and they don’t quite fit the norm.
Jim McMillan is almost ready to retire! As an Aggie and graduate of the University of Guelph and a childhood of growing up on a farm in the Guelph area where your family had beef cattle, hogs, sheep, wheat and turnips his career took a different turn. Living in Beamsville and making a livelihood in Pharmaceutical Sales is probably not what he foresaw as his future when he attended his university classes.
Ian McMillan is a recent graduate with a History Degree from Carleton University. Growing up in Beamsville, but working on farms in the summers is his only claim to farming. When jobs just didn’t look too promising in the Ottawa area, the two of them put their heads together and came up with a plan for a Market Garden.
Jim’s Father in Law and Ian’s Grandfather had some lovely sandy clay soil in Wainfleet that had been used for cash cropping for the past ten years. The thirty acre farm purchased by John and Eleanor Sabo over sixty years ago was originally used for tomatoes, cash crops and to raise three to four head of cattle every year. An agreement was made for the use of 6 acres of land, a tractor and equipment and the two on them were on their way.
All they needed was seeds, actually quite a lot of seeds, a generator to pump water, a truck to take their produce to market and few ingenious self-constructed tools to make planting easier. “And young legs,” says Ian, “to work in the garden and carry the produce to the truck.” “I like this,” he shares, “I do something new every day, I have worked at other jobs but here, I am outside, it is quiet and I am my own boss, I have time with my own thoughts.” Maybe he has time with his own thoughts but some of those thoughts might be how to dig out carrots that is not so back breaking, “as when they hit the clay,” he says, “they shoot off in all different directions and they don’t want to come out of the soil.”
Carrots are just one of the vegetables found in their garden. For the first year they have embraced this job with tenacity and enthusiasm. In their garden is corn, cabbage, both red and green, kale, yellow and green beans, Brussel-sprouts, pumpkins, turnips, gourds, hot peppers, sweet peppers, herbs, zucchini, squash-several varieties, tomatoes, gladiolas and sunflowers. These fine looking vegetables are trucked to market in Beamsville, Jordan, the Seaway Mall in Welland and the Scott Street Market in St. Catharines. They do hope that next year they can also have a stand at the Burlington Market.
A Father/Son project doesn’t always work out, but “My Dad is good at listening,” says Ian, “he is quite good at hearing my reasons for why we should grow something. Next year we have both decided that we need more beans, especially yellow and less squash and a different variety of sunflowers.”
What has made them quite successful their first year out? Well nice looking produce and apparently, “Ian is a good salesman,” says Jim. “Nobody gets by him, he can tell the customers why they should buy, convince them to try new things and he can give them a recipe to use also.”
Your parents and grandparents will be proud!