Rising before dawn to prepare for the Market’s 8am start time is no challenge for Rose & Ken Bartel, as they regularly start work on the farm bright and early just after 6am. The Bartels, a well-known local Niagara on the Lake power couple in the farming industry, have been serving customers at The Market @ The Village since opening day! Rose Bartel grew up on a grape farm; she notes that her passion for growing and harvesting produce surely did not stem from working on her parents’ farm! Not being overly fond of working with grapes, Rose went on to get a degree at Niagara College in horticulture, while her husband Ken pursued a degree in Agriculture. If you visit The Market @ The Village today, you will find Rose assembling fresh cut flower bouquets for customers while Ken handles the produce side of things.
Shortly after college, Rose could be found working her first job at a fruit tree nursery. As a new graduate, she was responsible for basic tasks such as weeding, watering, and planting, all of which she still performs today while working on her and Kens’ 3.3-acre farm. For Rose, the fruit tree nursery was the beginning of all things that pointed her in the direction of owning and working her own farm. We asked Rose if she could share some advice to help anyone looking into starting their own farm in the region. She said “Ken & I have moved from place to place in the past, and the soil and quality of food grown here in Niagara cannot be beat. Here in Niagara it is warm, the soil is rich, and all you need to start a farm is a small piece of land. Even a small piece of good land ends up paying for itself” She recommends growing vegetables that you enjoy eating, talking with other farmers at places such as The Market @ The Village Farmers’ Market, and being prepared for a substantial learning curve! Rose explained that the first few years of having your own farm or trying to grow new vegetables is time consuming, but once you are in a routine it becomes enjoyable clockwork.
Rose and Ken are the only two individuals tending to the Bartel Farms. They spend about 8 hours split between the morning and evening, with a short break inside for lunch and cooling off. A regular workday at the Bartels consists of heading outside shortly after 6am to care for the plants. This week, the mornings work has consisted of suckering tomatoes plants, which involves removing side branches to keep the tomatoes growing on one main stem, and keep the plants moving upwards to about five feet tall. Tomatoes are the Bartels top pick of the plants they grow because they are a challenge to maintain, but highly rewarding. The reward comes in the form of taste; Rose’s favourite being fresh sundried tomatoes. She uses freshly picked Juliet tomatoes, covers them in salt, pepper, drizzled olive oil and tosses them in the oven to make her favourite snack. Aside from suckering tomatoes, the Bartels have to check their eggplants for potato beetles, weed around the onion plants and plant dill, cilantro and onions. In the evening they go out again to water the seedlings, finish the weeding and the rest of the mornings work until about 930pm when they end the workday.
Rose and Ken Bartel went to their first farmers market when they were living in Perth and were intrigued enough to decide to start their own farm. They came back to Niagara on the Lake, bought a farm, and became vendors at their own local market. Of all the days The Market @ The Village has been set up, the loyal Bartels have only missed one Saturday for their sons’ wedding in Alberta! You can call them to order fresh hand cut flowers at 905-937-5252 or visit them bright and early at The Market @ The Village for the best pick of the bunch!
We encourage you to come out and visit the Bartel Farms tent this Saturday to try some of their organic homegrown produce!
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