When Brenda and Maynard Knechtel moved onto their patch of land 27 years ago there was nothing there; no well, no hydro, no buildings nothing but an overgrown orchard. Now that patch looks like a tidy quilt with evenly spaced rows of organically grown vegetables and fruit and flowers over six smooth acres.
The desire was for Brenda to remain at home while raising their children so the question was, how could she generate income while at home? She purchased a Pick Your Own strawberry business from an aunt and uncle soon after settling in. She always had leftover vegetables from her own garden so in 2000 she began selling produce to a food box program. By 2002 there were other programs also wanting her produce and one of them specifically wanted certified organic.
“I’ve always grown my food organically,” said Brenda. “I feel I’ve been given this piece of land and it’s only right I show good stewardship of it.” The food box program was the impetus to make it official.
Brenda and Maynard and their daughter work full time on the land while a teenage son helps out when needed and Amish girls are hired to come in and pick. And what a lot of picking there is! Everything is handpicked: the peppers and eggplants and kale and peas and beans and lettuce and spinach and tomatoes and raspberries and blackberries and gooseberries and flower bouquets … you get the picture. They plant 60 varieties of tomatoes and peas and beans are harvested almost non-stop as there are successive plantings throughout the season. “At the height of the season we are putting in about 80 hour weeks,” remarked Brenda.
Brenda will be planting spinach, swiss chard, kale, head lettuce and leaf lettuce in a green house so that all that lovely greenness will be available until December. She plants these in six to eight inches of composted soil produced on the farm. Wood shavings from Maynard’s woodworking shop combine with weeds and spent plants and food waste from the house to produce this nutrient rich soil which in turn nourishes the plants which nourishes those enjoying the harvest.
Looking out over the “quilt” after an 80 hour week it must be satisfying to know that like all pioneers they have created something from nothing and are enriching others with their love and labours.