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Heirloom tomatoes ready for market. [Photo © Nicole Cozzi]

From field to market

By Nicole Cozzi and Olivia Joerges

With fall fully upon us, Ottawa farmers are harvesting their produce. At Bramble Lea farm, in Athens, Ont., John and Melissa Ondrovcik are making sure all of they are ready for the remaining few weeks of the Beechwood Farmers Market in Ottawa’s east end. Capital Current followed them from planting to picking the fresh produce they haul to the market every Saturday.

Bramble Lea farm is located an hour and a half outside of Ottawa. The farm produces everything from potatoes and kale to butterscotch pecan shortbread. Melissa and John Ondrovcik work six days a week to bring their produce to local tables.
[Photo © Olivia Joerges]
The Ondrovciks were professors at the University of Mississippi before jumping into organic farming three years ago. They live with John’s parents, their two-year-old daughter and Onion, their faithful lab mix. [Photos © Olivia Joerges] 
John prepares the potato field with a new digger, looking back to check with Melissa to make sure he is aligned with the row. [Photo © Olivia Joerges] 
For Melissa and John, harvesting potatoes takes several hours. They turn up the rows and pick the tubers by hand. Small red-skinned potatoes dot the dirt as John pulls the digger along. [Photo © Olivia Joerges]
Melissa places the potatoes into buckets while Onion supervises. While Melissa spends the better part of the day harvesting, John bakes bread, cookies and pies for the Saturday market.
[Photo © Olivia Joerges]
After their morning in the field, Melissa makes sandwiches for lunch. 
[Photo © Olivia Joerges]

John and Melissa wake up at 4:30 a.m. every Saturday, from early June when the Beechwood market starts, to the end of October when the market closes. They arrive in New Edinburgh at 7:30 a.m. when they unpack their trailer and set up their table. [Photo © Nicole Cozzi]
John is responsible for the heavy lifting, while Melissa prepares the display of fresh produce for the Beechwood residence to choose from. [Photo © Nicole Cozzi]
Melissa first puts out baskets, and then fills them with vegetables. [Photo © Nicole Cozzi]
They have a wide variety of fresh vegetables. The couple picked these beets the night before. John explains that if a vegetable comes from the ground, it has to be picked only a day or two before the market, to ensure it is fresh. [Photo © Nicole Cozzi]
They have their entire station set up by 9 a.m. when the market opens. [Photo © Nicole Cozzi]
The Ondrovciks pay $60 for the day. They regularly serve 100 to 150 people every Saturday.  [Photo © Nicole Cozzi]
By the time the market ends at 2 p.m., John and Melissa have have sold most of their produce. Then, they pack up their trailer and get ready for their long drive home, back to the farm, where the routine begins again. [Photo © Nicole Cozzi]
Comments: 1

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  1. Farming is not an easy job…..but such a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. We should all be so grateful for the great tasting healthy food we get from their hard work. Hope to visit your farm someday.