Helmi is the business woman and the one who is in charge of planting, planning, marketing, processing and picking. Kornelius takes care of pruning, tilling, and the making and turning of the compost for their little food oasis.
Helmi says “ We are not certified organic but if we have any problems I make my own remedies using cayenne, rhubarb, garlic, and peroxide. I make extracts and spray them on and keep the ground clean.” She also makes her own potting soil with a mixture of everything she has on hand and peat moss. She is not sure if peat moss is organic and that is why she says she is not totally organic. When asked what percentage of losses do they have due to infestations, pests, or mould she replies “zero. You must keep a close eye and treat problems right away.” Deer are a concern, their footprints were everywhere, so they are considering some fencing.
Helmi and Kornelius make a living from the 2.5 acre garden and feed themselves and their immediate family.
“We buy our grass-fed beef from a fellow in Cherryville as well as our cheese. We raise our own chickens and eat their eggs, so beyond that we don’t need very much. I live and breathe my garden, unfortunately there are only nineteen hours in a day I can work, for I do need five hours of sleep!”
When asked if all their neighbours buy their produce her reply was “Sadly no, but Swan Lake and Valley Produce buy the surplus.” She is very pleased though that a good portion of her patrons are young mothers concerned about feeding their children healthy food and connecting them to the garden early in life by bringing them there. They can see first hand where their food is grown, feed the chickens, get their eggs and feel a connection to it all. Helmi remarks “ It doesn’t matter so much when an old person decides to eat a poisoned apple, there isn’t a lot of life ahead of them, but its best to give those young kids a healthy start.”
You may ask yourself “All this on 2.5 acres?” The greenhouse is never empty, right now it has 20,000 heirloom tomato starts in there for market sale in local nurseries and to stock her garden. In summer it becomes the house for peppers and such, in fall it is full of garlic and onions slowly curing for winter storage, and eventually that is where the sorghum is dried. They use their sorghum to feed their chickens but it is also an excellent breakfast cereal. There is not yet a market for sorghum but it seems to have potential. Sugar sorghum produces a sweet nectar similar to agave.
Helmi is an instinctual gardener. When asked if she has a calendar and plans for everyday she answered “No, I plant by the moon and I always seem to know where it is at, and the rest is up here” she said, pointing to her head full of thick beautiful hair. “I haven’t always been a gardener but when I was five and living in Paraguay with my parents I was in charge of planting the onions, two hectares of them, on my own.” I guess hard work is in her blood .
They grow peaches, plums, apples, cherries, berries, hazelnuts, squashes, greens and so much more on their little acreage. They seem to me to be living proof that you don’t need massive agribusiness to feed the world. Helmi feels that we should eat only what is local and in season, and understand that local food provides what is essential to our good health. This means we could stop importing so much food from far away since those imported foods probably don’t provide what is necessary for living in this type of climate. However, Helmi, like the rest of us, does use some imported food such as coconut butter, coffee, olive oil, just to mention a few .
Her attitude is basic and honest and a good example of the much needed shift in our attitudes towards the way we eat, shop and treat the planet. When we connect with our food production we become increasingly aware of what is good for us and the soil. It helps ensure a healthy future that encompasses what is most important for us all. Healthy Food.
Asking Helmi what she attributed their amazing energy, good health, and sharp minds to, without hesitation she answered: “Purpose and healthy food”. Helmi is 73 and Kornelius is 81!
The benefits to this type of food production are endless. Reducing the need to drive for any reason especially purchasing your food, makes a small market garden like this essential to every neighbourhood. Walking to your neighbours to buy local food enhances community, promotes exercise and connects us in a way that is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Many of us see it as the way of the future. Thank you Helmi and Kornelius for showing us it is all still possible.
Coldstream Corner Market is located in Coldstream and open to the public when local foods are in season. They don't do any advertising but Helmi does direct marketing to the stores they sell to.