“It actually grows one spear at a time and is picked by hand” Sarah Harrison says as she smiles. The sun is pouring into their cozy farm house and reflects off the children’s artwork displayed throughout the kitchen.
Four years ago Barry and Sarah Harrison had the opportunity to purchase this certified organic asparagus farm located in Talbotville, just outside of London and St. Thomas, from Sarah’s parents who had been farming there for over forty years. It was a big decision- they had other jobs and two babies under two, but took the leap. “It was scary, that first year!” exclaims Barry. “We had the worst season in the farm’s history because of the wet weather but luckily the next year we had our best to date!”
With their focus on quality certified organic asparagus, and the only growers in Ontario of certified organic white asparagus, they had instant interest from suppliers like The Big Carrot and Whole Foods in the GTA, to local London-area organic providers Eat Green Organics and On the Move Organics. “The quality of our product is important to us so we don’t use distributors- I personally deliver the product from the farm” says Barry.
The Harrison’s when purchasing the farm years ago set out in search of a financial institution that would fit their unique needs. “It wasn’t a pleasant experience looking for financing and we thought ‘we can’t do this!’ but then my parents who were already members encouraged us to speak to Mainstreet Credit Union, and it was like a breath of fresh air” shares Sarah. Barry agreed, “I was surprised at how I felt cared for as a real person and not a number. The employees know you personally and understand the unpredictable nature of farming finances – they even created a customized account and product package for the business and our family”.
“As a young busy family we use online banking all the time for the convenience factor, but the tellers still know our whole family” says Sarah. “We also love that whenever we need to we can easily sit down with our Mainstreet agricultural and commercial advisor and local branch manager together and share a problem we are facing. It turns into a brainstorming session – Have you thought about this? Have you tried that? This has been so valuable to us—that we feel invested in… that we matter”.
With each passing year the Harrison’s appreciation for their farm grows, “I really can’t imagine our life any other way – it is such a great feeling to be able to say- I did this, I raised this, I grew this”.