From Monday to Friday, Ryan Thiessen is a machinist in Brock’s Technical Services Machine Shop. But every week, he serves another role on campus – vegetable delivery man.
Thiessen and his wife Amanda, who graduated from Brock with a degree in History in 2008, own Creek Shore Farms near Jordan, where they produce food safely, organically and ethically in an era dominated by factory farms. They also donate about 15 per cent of their produce to Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold. For this, the couple recently received a $10,000 Small Business Big Impact Challenge award from Scotiabank.
The farm operates on a co-op model, which means its members pay an annual fee for a regular supply of food. Each week, the Thiessens park their pick up truck in the corner of Zone 1 to deliver vegetables to their 17 clients at Brock.
Lisa Wilson, assistant at Brock’s Science Stores, is a loyal customer.
“It’s nice to know where your food comes from,” she said. “It’s an overall healthier option to shopping in a grocery store where you don’t always know how fresh the items are.”
With Thiessen’s produce, she said, “you can definitely tell a difference in the flavour.”
The Thiessens produce a variety of chemical-free vegetables. They have tomatoes, and carrots, and potatoes. “Basically, if it’s a vegetable, we grow it,” he said.
They also raise animals, including geese, ducks and lambs, as well as produce eggs. At their farm, though, the animals eat grass and have space to roam.
“We hand weed everything,” he said. “We know every animal. There’s one chicken that roams the yard and doesn’t go with the other chickens. It’s effectively turned into a pet.”
There are currently 37 shareholders. The cost of a share ($575, although half shares are also available) gets the shareholder nearly a bushel of vegetables per week. This year, they are also offering a winter program.
The origins of Thiessen’s 10-acre farm date back to 2009, when they did a youth gardening project in Vineland through their church. Last year, they started a farm of their own.
As for the Community Care aspect, “we believe everybody deserves to eat good quality fresh local produce,” he said. They saw some of the other produce donations to the organization, and “to be honest, it’s stuff I’d feed the chickens.”
Farming, he said, is a little like working in the machine shop. At one job, he’s producing fresh local food. At the other, he is building innovative solutions for faculty and staff on campus.
“When you have a small farm, you’re always repairing things or inventing stuff,” he said. “So there are some similarities.”