Right now here in New Hamburg, it is winter, and our fields are quietly sleeping. But unlike our fields, we do not slow down in the winter months. Rather, it’s more of a shifting of gears, as we focus more on the importing side of the business. Farming is seasonal work, but many of our employees work year-round – this includes office, warehouse and production teams. This way, we are able to offer our customers a complete line of produce year-round.
Cultivating partnerships with other growers in warmer climates is an important part of getting fresh produce to you all year. Hillside Gardens grows many of the same organic crops in Georgia that we do, and we have been proudly working together for a number of years on a number of products – sometimes under the Pfenning’s brand name, sometimes under the Hillside brand. We have a lot in common: like us, they are a family-based business, and we focus on many of the same crops.
In the beginning of the partnership, some of the crops we asked them to grow for us were new to them, such as kale. Wolfgang has made numerous trips down there over the years to work through the challenges together – for instance, the sandy soil in Georgia doesn’t hold nutrients as well as the soil we’re used to here on our farm, and so a different approach to this problem was required. We’ve come a long way since those days!
The 50 acres of land that is grown organically at Hillside Gardens in Georgia is well-drained and plentiful, and they are fortunate to have extremely good sources of water. Sulphur levels in the water are very low, which results in very sweet vegetables! They are continually learning about soil health, and have been responding to customer requests for more organic offerings by transitioning more land to grow certified organic crops.
Every operation comes with its challenges; in Georgia they are located pretty close to the borderline where killing frosts can occur, so that is always a worry when the temperatures drop. Fortunately, this year they escaped that fate. Sometimes timing, nutrition and maturation of plants can be difficult to predict – which we can definitely relate to!
There are many challenges of operating a farm business. Partnerships like this help Pfenning’s continue to grow – even when outside in Ontario the ground is covered in snow.