Young farmers choose to grow vegetable crop that takes years to establish

When I think of farming in Prince Edward Island, asparagus doesn’t come to mind and yet it is a plant that can grow well here. I had a chance to speak with Matt Hughes and Lexi Mclean about their experience of trying out this crop. Oak Isle Farm is like any other working farm I can remember from my childhood. One of their dogs was the first to greet me as I pulled into the laneway and got out of the car. The old work truck was waiting, dusty but reliable and ready to take us into the field. The main difference from my childhood memory was how young these farmers are…it gives a little hope.

Planting asparagus is a lot of work and takes a lot of patience. From needing to plant two feet down and two feet apart, to covering over any growth a little bit at a time until the trench is filled in, growing asparagus is not for the faint of heart. “It has tied up some of the money, but there is a future for us in it,” Hughes said.

It takes three years before a harvest can come out of the ground. This season’s harvest was almost complete with a row or two that was ready for the market. They cut the stalks by hand, wash them, weigh them, and then pack them in bunches. I was going to try it, for the experience, but my knees won’t allow me to kneel on the ground. Hughes tells me he is learning along the way, finding information from the internet as well as talking to others. He sells the harvest to local markets and restaurants and it would seem they can’t get enough.

We started wrapping things up for the visit. Mclean smiled and handed me a bunch of asparagus to try later. I couldn’t help but ask one final question: Specifically, as a young couple, what would make you choose to be farmers in this day and age?

Hughes looked past me for a moment as if into the future. Farming is in his family…in his blood. “There is something to being able to put a seed in the ground and with care and hardwork, take something out that can help support your family.”

About Richard Schroeter

Richard has been in the multimedia game for a long time. He has a background in art and computer design and has used this experience working in television, film and photography. By day he works at Veterans Affairs, building presentations, restoring photos, editing Veterans video clips, and creating learning modules for Canadian students of all grades. By night he forages for food and figures Salty will be his go to starting point.

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