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  • Norfolk Farms


Peaches are a historic, and contemporary, niche market crop in Norfolk County.

Tom Haskett, owner of T and J Haskett Farms.

Peaches and some other tender fruits have been grown in Norfolk dating back into the early 1900s. Several families have been at the heart of peach growing in the county, including the Hasketts, Chadwicks, Sowdens, McClungs and Matzs.

When Tom Haskett, present owner of T and J Haskett Farms, purchased the family farm in 1966, it included two to three acres of peaches his grandfather had planted.

“I had grown up around them and was always interested in tender fruit,” he said.

At the time Haskett bought the farm, Grant Fox was the big peach grower in southern Ontario and one of his orchards was available. Haskett made a deal to lease one of Fox’s orchards and to learn more about tender fruit.

Then he planted his own orchard, and has continued to since then.

In Norfolk County, peaches are near the northern limit of their range. This means Haskett must be selective of where he plants within his farm, selecting not only well-drained sites with lighter soil but also higher land as it can be a degree or two warmer which can make a difference in winter survival of the trees or rather a tree produces a crop the following spring.

Still, Haskett says particular trees only produce a crop five to six years of every 10.

Growing peaches is also a process of continual tree renewal. If Haskett has five acres producing, he has two acres in renewal. It takes a tree as long as four years before it produces its first crop.

“Most fruit in Niagara isn’t allowed to ripen on the tree. Because we are closer to the market we can allow it to ripen on the tree.”

The main market for Haskett’s peaches is at the Cider Keg, which is another family business, and other farm markets in the county.

“This allows us to leave the fruit on the tree a few days longer and it plumps out on the tree,” he said. “Most fruit in Niagara isn’t allowed to ripen on the tree. Because we are closer to the market we can allow it to ripen on the tree.”

The result is a peach with more flavor than those that sit in cold storage. Haskett said they have customers who drive for miles for their peaches, telling them they have more flavor.

Although peaches are only produced for fresh sales now, at one time there was a local cannery industry. But, the government allowed the industry to move to the United States.

“The government actually paid growers to take those trees out of the ground,” Haskett said. “Otherwise there would be a cannery industry with peaches.”

Today, peaches are a small percentage of the crops grown on the acreage Haskett has in production. Different varieties allow fresh peaches from mid-July to mid-September. Other crops include: nectarines, apricots, strawberries, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash and, of course, apples.

“It’s not a mainstream business for us, but a necessary part of the business in the fruits we offer,” he said.

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