Rooted is all about the people and the places that make us proud to call our community home.
Since 1982, Leisure Farms in West Nipissing has been providing jobs, an experience, and produce to people from around the area and Farm Manager Mitch Deschatelets says the success comes from being an interactive activity that families can participate in while getting something they need.
“They come back home, and they have food from their activity, so it's hard to beat in a sense because any other activities you would do, you don't come back home with anything other than the experience. It’s also a low cost. My parents started ‘Pick your own Produce’ in 1982 and the farm has expanded since then and now we offer more. We've been expanding a lot into vegetables in the past 10 years, so every year we grow more and more vegetables on the farm.”
Leisure Farms is a business that has helped provide for not just the clientele, but during the summer months, they employ about 45. Deschatelets says he feels like there is some gratitude from people in the area.
“Our business also draws in a lot of people from outside the area, so it really helps other businesses because of that.”
Deschatelets says he knew he was destined to do something related to the outdoors for his career.
“I always liked to be outside, and I was not that great at being indoors, so I knew I wanted to do something that had to do with the outdoors. I did take two diplomas, a prior one in forestry and one in wildlife but I preferred working for myself. I went to the University of Guelph to study agriculture and decided I wanted to go back to the family farm and be self-employed and spend lots of time outside.
Deschatelets says all the planning for the coming season is done over winter.
“In the fall we take soil analysis of all the fields, and I check for the nutrient levels, so we adjust and know what nutrients are missing in each field. Those nutrients are purchased in the winter ready to go when the spring comes and then we can adjust the soil. All the containers for the fruits and vegetables are ordered in the winter.”
He says once spring comes, he just follows the plan.
“There's not too much time to sit down and think during the season, so I just follow the plan that I've made over winter. There are soil probes in each field that tell me the soil moisture content and it tells me information on irrigation, which field needs to be watered, and when to stop. We start planting as soon as the soil is dry enough to go. Every element that is needed we perform, outside of controlling the weather. Our schedule changes every day because it depends on what the weather is like. I'm usually in the office working when it’s a rainy day – or snowy day.”
In addition to running the farm, Deschatelets is also the chairperson of the North Bay Farmers Market.
“I've been involved pretty much since we started attending that market which I'm guessing has been for the last 16 years or so. I think it's very important to have a Farmers' Market, especially for people starting up businesses. For instance, when I first started to expand into the vegetable business, our farm was not yet known for the vegetables because traditionally we used to close after the strawberry season and reopen only in the fall for the pumpkin season. So, it was important to make ourselves known and to start making sales right away.”
Deschatelets says the North Bay Farmers' Market is perfect for businesses trying to establish themselves because customers are already there.
He says, “It's a lot easier to start a business without the huge cost of advertisement and to try to attract them to your property. The Farmers' Market is within the urban area and the market already does the advertisement for everybody and that's great.”
Deschatelets says even with snow still falling into April in between mixed periods of seasonal highs, they actually got lucky with this year's weather.
“It looked like we were going to have a very late season with the hot weather in early April, but we were still snowmobiling everywhere on the farm property. Within a week it seemed like winter was going to go on forever and then suddenly the next week it was spring, and the snow melted. So, it brought us closer to a normal spring start. We just got lucky that we did not get the rain during that one week of our warm weather otherwise we would have been struggling with floods.”
With all systems ready to go for another great year, Deschatlets says they are going to try something new this year.
“We're always trying new things every year and this year, it is just a trial and we'll see how that goes but I'm going to try to grow peanuts. We never did in the past so it's just something that look forward to and we’ll see what that brings.”
If you have a story idea for the “Rooted” series, send Matt an email at [email protected]