Exotic fruit farmers budding in rural Huron County
Published Friday, July 29, 2016 6:07PM EDT Last Updated Friday, July 29, 2016 6:31PM EDT
In the midst of corn and soybean country, one small farm is blazing a very different path.
Terry Brake specializes in fruits common associated with much more tropical climates.
He’s got pineapples, mangos, lemons, limes, oranges, guava and papayas, as well as “thousands” of bananas, he said Friday in an interview.
For most of his life, the idea of farming exotic fruits wasn’t something Brake had any knowledge of or interest in.
That changed about a decade ago, when injuries from a car crash left him unable to return to his previous job.
A doctor gave him a banana plant and told him to keep in his basement, suggesting that growing bananas could be a form of therapy.
Although he initially thought it impossible, Brake soon found that he could indeed grow bananas – and even enjoyed it.
“Growing a banana … made me feel like I belonged again,” he said.
His business partner, Laurie Macpherson, eventually purchased a property in rural Huron County, outside Blyth.
On that property, they set up a structure and started looking for more information about growing exotic fruits.
Lettuce, carrots, potatoes and other vegetables grow on the grounds as well – enough that Macpherson says she’s only had to buy one head of lettuce at the store in the last few years.
“It’s nice to be able to eat something in the middle of winter that actually tastes like what it should taste like,” she said.
Brake says he’s been to Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic to learn more about growing individual fruits.
During farmers’ market season, Blake and Macpherson sell their fruit at markets in Goderich and Exeter. In the winter, customers can get them straight from the farm.
Keeping exotic plants alive in a dry southern Ontario summer isn’t without its difficulties.
Brake says his grapefruit tree has seen better days, while his mango crop – normally in the thousands – stands at “nothing” for this year.
Brake and Macpherson are planning on adding lychee, starfruit and passionfruit to his roster later this year, and looking at blood orange and dragonfruit as potential crops for 2017.