Dufferin Market Gardens
Gardens Grounded in Gratitude
By Jennifer McFee
Nearly 27 years ago, Dufferin Market Gardens sowed the seeds for a small business venture that has since blossomed into a homegrown success.
In 1989, Edith Rook was a stay-at-home mom raising seven children when she embarked on her veggie-growing adventure. At that time, a farmer’s market was launching in Carman and Edith began to sell an assortment of vegetables grown on a half-acre of land. While Edith was at the market, her husband, Len, and their older children were busy growing and harvesting after work and school.
Over the years, the farm evolved little by little with additional acres and more greenhouses. In 1995, Rook noticed that Peak of the Market Ltd. was seeking Growers for summer crops, and with Len’s persuasions, they began to supply kale to the organization.
“About 90 per cent of the kale that we produced at that time was used as a garnish in delicatessens around the meat platters and in stores and restaurants,” she says.
“We’re still doing kale, and the amount has increased over the years. Now 90 per cent of it is being consumed.”
In 2000, Edith’s husband Len quit his construction job to work full-time on the farm, which grew to span 30 acres. Today, the couple continues to grow kale for Peak of the Market Ltd., as well as zucchini, cucumbers, leeks, green bell peppers and jalapeno peppers. They also grow tomatoes and a variety of other veggies for their own consumption and for sale at the Carman Farmers’ Market, where Edith still vends every Friday throughout the summer.
“I enjoy the selling part and Len enjoys the growing part,” says Edith, who makes plenty of salsa with her homegrown ingredients.
In addition to supplying an abundance of fresh vegetables, the farming lifestyle also provided the family with a wealth of cherished memories.
“We taught our children a lot on the farm about working and playing and being together. We had a lot of great conversations because they were working right alongside us. For us, it was a really good way of life,” she says.
They also employ nine seasonal Mexican workers who have become like an extended family.
“We simply could not do this anymore without them. They’re totally essential. They tend to come back because we’re happy with them and they’re happy with our farm,” Edith says. “We built quite a relationship with them and they count on coming back year after year.”
In addition, Peak of the Market Ltd. is another integral element of their operation.
“For produce like kale and leek, there’s a limited amount of sales in those products. We cannot grow these products without the good use of Peak of the Market,” Edith says. “They are an essential part of our business. It works really well for us. We would not be able to do this without them.”
At the same time, Edith emphasizes the importance of faith on the family farm.
“Over the years, we have been able to make a good living and farming has been a good way of life,” she says. “We work hard and we enjoy life, but that can only happen because God is blessing us in that way. We are grateful.”