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Greetings from the North Gower Farmers' Market

The 1997 season

This year we had a late spring followed by an early hot spell. Some gardens began slowly this year, and we're often asked if they are now on schedule.

John Vandenberg and his wife Sondra operate Rideau Pines Farm, on Fourth Line Road, north of North Gower. He has about 20 acres planted in strawberries, raspberries, sweet corn, currants and 15 varieties of vegetables. We put the question to him.

"It will be a good season this year," he said, at opening day at the North Gower Farmers' Market. "Crops are very good. It's also the latest season in 15 - 16 years. Even later than last year."

Vandenberg said the raspberries are "excellent, in full bloom", and "about one week later than normal. Sweet corn will be ready in August; it's usually ready by the last week of July. Crops like lettuce and broccoli are on time or a few days late."

So it looks like a good season ahead for local growers. However, Vandenberg said irrigation was essential this year. During the hot and dry spell, he irrigated three times, about 2 inches in total.

Besides running Rideau Pines Farm, Vandenberg works part time with Agriculture Canada, monitoring horticultural activities around the world. Before this, he was head of horticulture at the Kemptville College of Agricultural Technology. His wife also combines two careers: she's a part time farmer, and part time musician. Among other musical activities, she is the musical director of the Nepean Choir.

"The last week of June and first week of July will be the peak of strawberry season," he said.

This is good news for those eager for one of the finest tastes of summer. The fruit will arrive on schedule for the Strawberry Social at the North Gower Farmers' Market on July 5.

Today's market scene: antique cars dropped by for a visit at the market's opening day, June 21. The drawing is by market vendor Jo-Anne McDonald.


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