Veggies are Big at Heritage Lane Produce
Gregory Boyd’s family immigrated from Ireland in 1867, building the original homestead on the flats of Big Creek. Later the house was moved to its present location and replaced with the present house built in 1932.
Greg’s grandfather worked the farm from the 1950’s until his passing in 2018, growing tobacco, grain and beef cattle. Greg worked with his grandparents, starting in the early 2000’s. He attended the University of Guelph, finishing in 2007 with a degree in Agricultural Science.
The tobacco crop came to a sudden end in 2008 when his grandfather took the government buy-out. Greg had the option of growing tobacco under the new system but decided against that. Instead he moved to vegetable production; much of the tobacco equipment was able to be used or modified for this. His first crop was in 2009. He started small, selling at only the Simcoe and Tillsonburg farmers’ markets.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) was soon added, along with more markets. In 2019 he transitioned to online retail from CSA as customers wanted more flexibility and options; this worked very well during covid-19. At present their retail store opens on the last week of May and is seasonal from June to October.
In 2021 Greg started selling into some wholesale markets and plans to move in this direction long term. While he enjoys the customer interaction he finds that the time away from the farm allows less time for training the high school and college students he relies on. The labour issue is his most challenging aspect, as he needs to be around more and also finds that people are not always available when most needed. He still does the Simcoe and Tillsonburg markets but backed off others.
Crops grown have included: lettuce greens, living lettuce, carrots, beets, onions (Spanish and red), broccoli, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers. He has one half acre of greenhouse space and six acres of field space devoted to vegetables.
He estimates he needs one person for each acre of produce. He is looking for more wholesale markets and is planning to reduce the number of crops and specialize in just a few with more efficiency. He knows he is near the limit of what he can do alone; next year he is thinking of re-entering the off-shore labour program.
Growing practices are not organic but are as pesticide free as possible. Nothing is sprayed on the crops, although herbicides are used on carrots and beets prior to plant emergence as the amount of cultivation required is too hard to keep up with otherwise. Greg stated, “The food we grow is the food we eat,” so it is important to him to grow healthy crops.
Some of the lettuce Greg grows is done with aquaponics (hydroponics + aquaculture). Tilapia fish are grown and the fish water is used to grow the lettuce. This works well. He figures he loses on the fish but the lettuce gets a natural boost instead of chemical fertilizer.
In addition to the vegetable crops, Greg also does some cash crops of corn and soybeans alongside his father and raises a few beef cattle, which are marketed from the farm. He is still assessing the viability of this venture, as he has only had the cattle for two years.
Greg’s wife Victoria works full time off the farm and helps out as she is able. The couple have three children: Connor, 11, Lauren, 9 and Roman, 4.