Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables.  They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.

~Elizabeth Berry


The Martin Family


At this time of year, many avid gardeners are poring over seed and plant catalogues, dreaming of perfect produce and flowers during the warm summer days.  With a large greenhouse to fill, Mark and Lena Martin are planning their seed and plant purchases to prepare for planting beginning as soon as February 15th.


The 5,000 square foot greenhouse, located on Settlers Road, is heated by 8,000 gallons of wood-heated hot water flowing through pipes. Wood for the boiler comes from various sources and the boiler requires 8-10 tandem truckloads of wood per season to keep the fires burning to maintain the plants at their optimum temperature of 65-70 degrees which allows the tomatoes to grow and pollinate. With an eye on producing vegetables in the most natural way possible, the plants are watered with rainwater, captured and stored in a 5,000-gallon cistern. Mark pointed out that well water has a high mineral content making it unsuitable for producing top quality tomatoes.  The plants are grown in troughs that are raised above the ground and refilled annually with fresh, nutrient rich soil from the farm. Prior to being filled with fresh soil the troughs are emptied and disinfected in preparation for planting.    During warmer weather shades at the roof level can be pulled across to lower the temperature and sunlight exposure. Tomato plants can grow from 15 to 20 feet tall and strings hang from the top of the greenhouse where the vines are attached to plastic clips to support themselves.  The upkeep of the greenhouse requires Mark to perform plumbing and electrical duties, and other general duties.  Lena propagates the seedlings in trays in a specially heated area of the greenhouse. She begins the seedlings in cell trays containing 288 cells, the tender plants are then transferred into slightly larger cells, then they may go into larger parts before they go into the final container. In this labour intensive environment their 7 children are called in to work in the greenhouse and in the outdoor vegetable garden as much as is practical, after school or during the holidays.


The Martin family will be expanding their stall at the Bobcaygeon Farmers’ Market by 50% this coming season, their 2nd season at the market.  Adding pots of herbs, mesclun greens, and grape tomatoes, tea towels and baby bonnets made by Mark’s sister.  Mark and Lena are constantly thinking about what their customers want, and enjoy meeting everyone who stops by their stand at the market.  Following some personal health issues Mark became even more interested in producing high-quality food both for his own family and for his customers.  While not being able to totally eliminate the use of chemicals he says that 75% of his vegetable crops are grown without chemicals, and he only uses pesticides when it is absolutely necessary.  In the past Mark has grown corn without pesticides but had to throw away about 50%; a balance between naturally produced food and the bottom line has to be maintained.  In the past Mark has grown heirloom varieties at customers’ requests but finds that because of appearance and spoilage this produce often comes with unrealistic price tags.  Plants such as peppers and tomatoes are sold at the farm gate during the spring.


Produce and flowers from the Martin farm can also be found at the Farm Market on Highway #36, not far from their farm on Settlers Road.  As Mennonites who use horse and buggies to get around, transporting their produce and flowers short distances is important to the Martin family, they appreciate being able to sell their wares at the Bobcaygeon Farmers Market, even though it necessitates the family picking the vegetables the evening before and setting out at 6 a.m. on Saturday mornings to set up the stall. Customers appreciate that the vegetables they buy are truly fresh, having been picked 12-24 hours before.


Mark and Lena’s beliefs are that everything they do is for the glory of God and as part of this belief system they do not have photographs taken of themselves.  Next time you stop by the Martin family stand at the Bobcaygeon Farmers’ Market spend a few moments chatting with the growers, you might learn something and they may be able to respond to your special requests.