January 16, 2020
By: Bernadette Antoniou
It’s the dead of winter in Canada, and our fields are snow-covered, cover-cropped and very quiet. So how can buying import produce support a local farm?
It stands to reason that if you buy imported produce, you will be supporting a local import business. However, this is often monopolized by bigger distributors who have the buying power. For a typical smaller farmer, the winter months are for planning next year, fixing machinery, and selling storage or greenhouse crops.
But here at Pfenning’s it’s a little different.
We are primarily a farm and do all those things described above; but we are much more than that. We pack for other local growers under the Pfenning brand, and we also have our very successful import program. This is important to us because it allows us to operate year-round, which means year-round employment for many here. Without these programs in place, this would not be possible.
While local first is our mandate, we recognize the value of imported fresh fruits and vegetables. We love our reliable storage crops, and we appreciate not having to get by with only them; it’s healthy and more interesting to be able to have leafy greens in the winter time along with our taters and turnips!
But not just any imported fruits and veg will do! Over the years, we have cultivated relationships with like-minded grower partners in warmer climes. Some of these relationships have deepened into partnerships, where we work together on growing practices, harvesting methods, and formats. Produce is packed under the Pfenning brand, and our customers are happy to get well-loved product that is familiar in quality and appearance. When you see “Pfenning Georgia” or “Pfenning California” product, you can be sure it comes from one of these partnerships.
Currently we are working closely again with our partner grower in Georgia. Farming challenges look a little different down there than they do here at home; for instance, their soil is significantly sandier, which drains more easily (taking nutrients with it). Over the years, we have watched the quality of the soil improve as they have been diligent with compost application. Of course, the health of their plants has improved along with it! Extreme heat and heavy rains are normal. Their soil is unusually low in sulphur, which results in extremely sweet vegetables. (This last isn’t a challenge, but more of a perk!)
The growing season in Georgia complements ours very nicely; when we are in full swing here, the weather there is way too hot; when our winter months are here, the weather there is balmy and they are able to produce lots. They grow Spinach, Kales, Chards, Broccoli and Carrots for the Pfenning label.
We are so thankful to be able to rely on so many fantastic growers who grow when we cannot! And most of all to you, for your support not only in local season, but for your continued support of our local farm business in the winter months as well. It means everything to us.