Carron Farms (Bradford, Ontario)
A fourth generation farmer in Ontario, Jason traces his family’s farming history to Chatham-Kent in the 1920s when his great grandfather emigrated from the Netherlands. In 1934, his grandfather and two brothers moved to the Holland Marsh and established farms as the Verkaik brothers. In 1964, as the family grew, Jason’s grandfather started Carron Farms. The name reflects the main crops they grow – Carrots and Onions. Carron Farms currently grows 250 acres of vegetables in Ontario and focuses on sustainability.
Why carrots and onions?
In a lot of cultures across the world, the onion is a staple in every home. They say that the kitchen is the heart of the home; I think the onion is the heart of the kitchen. So, it made sense to focus on produce that is used across so many cultures. Carrots are a good rotation crop and again, one of the most commonly used vegetables in a lot of cultures. So, focusing on these ensured that I was always growing produce that people needed. We do grow other crops like beets, garlic, brussels sprouts, heirloom carrots and we are even experimenting with some Asian vegetables.
Describe a typical day at the farm.
A typical day for me is probably a bit different from what it used to be a few years ago. Every day is different but the seasonality stays the same. We have long days here at the farm. It could run anywhere from 7a.m. to 8 or even 11p.m., six days a week.
We have two packaging facilities that run year-round. We package onions, garlic and beets. They operate 5-6 days a week depending on the season. I have hired people to take some of the burden off me. So, I’ve transitioned into more of a manager’s role, talking to the crews and making sure they know what they need to do for the day. I still do the sales, the spraying and the crop protection. Any given day could bring anything from fixing broken equipment to seeding or harvesting.
What’s your favourite way to use your produce?
My secret recipe for purple carrot soup is my favourite way to enjoy all the produce I grow. I’ve won a few contests with this soup and its main ingredients are all grown right here in the farm – purple carrots of course, garlic, onions… and some ingredients I’m going to keep secret.
Where can people find your products?
Connecting with the consumer and having our story told is really important to us. We are involved with direct to consumer initiatives like Food Share Toronto and Fresh From the Farm. An initiative we started right here on the farm is The Harvest Share Food Box. We started with 64 families and have grown to 500 families who get produce that’s fresh off the fields. We ship to Sobeys on the retail side and also to food processers that make salads and other finished foods.
Any advice for new farmers?
Have a passion for farming and study – a lot! Understand what your crop needs, the kind of soil you have, what you need to do to help your crop succeed, what pests can attack your crops. Talk to successful farmer and be ready to be a lifelong learner. You never really arrive in farming. It’s a lot of investment in terms of money and effort. There are good years and not so good ones; you need to be able to weather them all.
- Orange is the newest colour of carrot in the history of the world
- The Dutch started experimenting to grow the orange carrot to reflect the Dutch royal color (the House of Orange)
- Read more about buying and storing carrots here
Ontario’s farmers play an important role in the fabric of our society. They contribute to Ontario’s economy, are good stewards of the land, and help to put fresh local food on our tables. These are some of their stories.