Evalisa McIllfaterick had been working for years on a small farm in the area. She learned more about the local farm scene in Thunder Bay, observing there was not as much available in terms of produce in the winter months when the growing season ended.
“I thought why not do something that fills that gap?” she said.
So she started Root Cellar Gardens.
Root crops, squash, onions and garlic, have been her main focus. Having them available in the winter so people can still access locally grown veggies all year round. Root Cellar Gardens has been focusing on seed production and seed sales at their farm.
“It’s my favourite part of what we do now.” McIllfaterick says. “In terms of produce we still focus primarily on root crops and storage vegetables but in tandem with that, we’ve found really neat ways to incorporate seed production into that too.”
Root Cellar Gardens sells their seeds on contract to other seed companies in the province, as a member of Superior Seed Producers, as Root Cellar Gardens Seeds.
Root Cellar Gardens has a self-serve veggie stand that opens in the spring, located in Cloud Bay. It’s easy for neighbours and residents in the area to pop by and see what’s available.
“It’s a self-serve/honour system. Throw your money in the slot kind of thing. It’ll be open once it stops freezing overnight, so mid-April early May until around Thanksgiving usually.”
Carrots, garlic, and watermelon are the top sellers.
“We’re working on breeding a locally adapted watermelon,” McIllfaterick says. “For the last couple years we’ve had heaps of melons that we’ve been selling mostly through the veggie stand.”
The feedback from locals has been very positive, adults and kids love the local watermelon.
“In my years of growing watermelons before this, I never found a variety that I could count on. It’s not prime watermelon growing territory. So we’ve had to work a bit harder at it, breeding our own unique variety.”
Root Cellar Gardens is certified organic, making them the only organic seed producer in Northwestern Ontario. They plan on making their own seed packs available at a wider range of retail locations in the area in the future.
“We’d love for folks to have tangible, physical access to locally adapted seeds, so that’s something that we’re working toward.”
For now they are available at the Thunder Bay Country Market and Goods & Co. through Superior Seasons, as well as Green Acre Variety in South Gillies. They will expand their seed availability to smaller communities throughout Northwestern Ontario, areas that share a similar growing season.
Root Cellar Gardens has a website where you can buy their seeds, get more information and updates about their products and availability and an active Facebook page to stay informed about current events. Don’t miss the upcoming seed swaps happening around the region. Believe it or not, spring is just around the corner. Grow your own garden favourites this year with some help from Root Cellar Gardens.