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This article was published 27/7/2015 (2368 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Working around the clock seven days a week isn’t a schedule that suits everyone, but a trio of young farmers are putting in the hours and watching their hard work pay off.
Justin Girard, 31, his wife Britt Embry, 30, and their friend Matthew Roy Underhill, 36, are producing organically-grown vegetables at their Hearts and Roots market garden located three kilometers south of Elie.
Girard’s family has owned the land situated next to the La Salle River for many years, as it was originally farmed by one of his great-grandfathers who moved to the area from Quebec.
His father Danny and mother Janet had a berry farm and ran the Crooked Bush Café in a renovated barn that’s now Girard and Embry’s home.
"Every generation has started something new," Girard said, adding that his father’s agricultural expertise has helped him greatly.
"Coming back to the farm was always in the back of my mind."
The three farmers met at a Winnipeg coffee shop and bakery. Embry, originally from Toronto, said she never pictured herself pulling weeds and selling fresh produce at farmers’ markets, but she’s always had an interest in locally-grown food.
Underhill hales from Prince Albert, Sask. and doesn’t have a farming background. He said he was looking for a challenge when he was offered the chance to join his friends in starting their market garden.
After suffering from sore muscles during his first week on the farm, Underhill said he now enjoys the freedom of working with his friends in the outdoors.
Girard gained practical experience in greenhouse growing when he worked for a few local growers while attending the University of Winnipeg. He hopes to incorporate more of his knowledge of herb production into the Hearts and Roots operation in coming years as they plan to construct a permanent greenhouse.
A temporary greenhouse now stands next to the Girards’ home.
"We bought it in Kijiji and threw it up in a day and a half," Embry said.
The greenhouse was needed to help combat the unseasonably cold weather in early May that threatened to kill many of their vegetable seedlings.
Girard said they used small propane heaters to heat the greenhouse and he was up every two hours checking to make sure the young plants were staying warm.
Hearts and Roots offers a variety of vegetables, but specializes in tomatoes, melons and peppers. They are selling their produce at the Red River Exhibition farmers’ market on Saturdays, at the Wolseley farmers’ market on Tuesdays, and at the Elie farmers’ market on Thursdays.
"We’ve had super local support in Elie," Embry said.
They’re also providing vegetables to Jardin St-Léon Gardens (419 St. Mary’s Rd.) and Crampton’s Market (1765 Waverley St.) in Winnipeg, as well as selling to an upscale restaurant.
"There’s a great demand for our produce," Girard said.
He said they are being cautious about not biting off more than they can chew in terms of growing and selling their produce. While they like the idea of running a community-supported agricultural business where subscribers pay for a weekly supply of vegetables, they want to make sure that they are able to meet the constant demand.
"We want to make sure that we can do a good job," he said. "We really want to hone our skills."
For more information about Hearts and Roots, visit www.heartsandroots.com
St. Vital community correspondent
Andrea Geary is a community correspondent for St. Vital and was once the community journalist for The Headliner.