Meet The Vendors: Olsen Family Farms
With autumn we see the leaves change colour, the hot summer days mellow out and cool down, our days get shorter and our nights longer. What we don’t see is the butternut squash ripening and being harvested by Jennifer Olsen and her family as the early fall season approaches. For Jennifer Olsen, harvesting the first of the seasons’ butternut squash signals the end of summer and beginning of autumn. The Market @ The Village introduces our weekly vendor feature Olsen Family Farms. The Olsen family consists of husband and wife team Jennifer and Peter and their four children, who are great helpers when it comes to harvest time. This Saturday, the Olsen Family will have their first butternut squash of the season available for you to take home and add to your favourite risotto, pasta, soup, stew or to enjoy roasted on its own!
For the Olsen Family, becoming providers of fresh vegetable and fruits at the local market has always been an aspiration. Jennifer Olsen , being a health and wellness coach, saw the pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of accelerating their goal of having a family farm. Since March, Jennifer has no longer been able to operate her health and wellness business from her home barn, as gyms across the nation were ordered to shut down. Instead of scrambling between work and taking care of their children, the pandemic gave her a chance to really stop, sit down, and rethink what she truly wanted to contribute and serve to society. In conjunction with her health and wellness business “The Training Shed”, Jennifer wanted to offer her homegrown produce to the local community. The family already had plans to attend Niagara -On-The-Lake’s Market @ The Village for the first time this summer, but the pandemic opened up a large window of time for Jennifer to “grab the bull by the horns and run with it”. Today, Jennifer still operates The Training Shed, only interacting and consulting with her clients via an online platform, which gives her plenty more time to tend to their acre and a half vegetable garden and fruit trees. Her husband Peter works full time as an operations manager of his family’s company, but helps on the farm in his spare time. While the duo is new to the vegetable farming industry, Peters family owns and operates Brookdale Treeland Nursery, and he has always been involved in the greenhouse and landscaping industry. Peters’ father was one of the founding partners of Landscape Ontario, which oversaw the movement of nursery stock in Canada! On the other hand, Jennifer is the first of her family to participate in the farming industry.
According to Jennifer Olsen, the day begins around 5-530 AM with a few hours of online health and wellness coaching. Afterwards she heads out to the yard to tend to the garden until the heat settles in. She entertains the children for the afternoon, and always finds time to fit in her daily workout! After dinner, any of the days’ work that has yet to get done in the field is priority. Jennifer and Peters’ two eldest children Mitch and Dean often help their mother out when it comes to harvest time! Jennifer says “the children really enjoy harvest time and doing maintenance such as weeding”. The Olsen Family Farm booth a The Market @ The Village also provides an avenue for the church community to sell their handmade quilts, since they cannot operate the church bazaar during the pandemic. Peters mother participates in a church group who crafts handmade quilts. Jennifer also makes quilts, but her mother in law is a huge help in doing the finer parts of the quilt, which are more time consuming. Together they work as a team to put these lovely quilts for sale at the Market @ The Village.
For the family, living in the NOTL has been a beautiful experience. Jennifer volunteered with multiple organizations upon moving to the town thirteen years ago, by which she met many new people. Her favourite part about living in the area was the warm welcoming arms she and her family received almost immediately after they settled here on their farm three years ago. The community of Niagara-On the Lake is a unique place where people offer helping hands, guidance and treat each other like family. Being first time vendors at the Farmers Market early this summer, the Olsen family experienced an intense learning curve. This season, Olsen Family Farms set out and tested the waters to see if farming was something they could pursue as a long-term career. Our community of vendors at the Market @ The Village, especially those that have been in the industry for ages, have acted as mentors and role models for the Olsen Family. Jennifer said the family farm did not start with the Market @ The Village on the first opening day, as many of the returning vendors did. They plan on returning next year but planting slightly earlier so that they can have produce ready for the first opening day! Come visit the Olsen Family this Saturday from 8AM- 1PM and checkout the harvest of the first butternut squash of 2020!
Instagram : olsenfamilyfarms