Local veggie box program thriving

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[Summerside, PEI] - When Kathy Ware started out four years ago she didn’t have high hopes.

 

While she says good help is hard to find, Bedeque, Prince Edward Island’s Kathy Ware always welcomes a helping hand from her granddaughter Hailey.

After working elsewhere for three years, she came back to her farm roots in Bedeque (Prince Edward Island) for the summer.

Her aim wasn’t to build a career around what she began that summer, but today Crystal Green Farms’ veggie box business is growing like the vegetables she farms from the red Island dirt.

“I just wanted to be my own boss again,” Ware said. “It started out as a summer job, and then we worked through the winter that first year, and it just grew from there. And we’ve grown with it.”

Ware started out that summer with 18 customers located in Summerside. Today, (Feb. 11) she delivers between 80 and 100 boxes a week during the summer, and bi-weekly throughout the winter. For $25 per box she delivers to customers in Summerside, Kensington and Winsloe.

“It started as a way to see if I could make it work,” Ware said.

Over that first summer, her curiosity began to grow, as did her confidence. She made the choice to operate throughout the winter, and the business has been on the way up ever since.

“It’s a way to make a living. Probably not a way to get rich, but definitely a way to make a living.”

With her client list growing all the time, Ware said she notices a large variation in her customers.

“It’s a wide range of people that do it. We have couples that are in their fifties, and we have younger families with young babies. A very wide range really.”

While selling local products to a wide variety of local people, keeping good relationships with customers is important, she said.

“You learn to build up a loyalty to your customers. It’s a fun lifestyle and it’s rewarding.”

On top of growing their own vegetables, Crystal Green Farms also grinds its own wheat for muffin and pancake mixes, and provides fresh eggs in their veggie boxes.

Growing her own food has always been important for her, she said.

“We were raised very local and very organic, in that we had a big garden.”

It was a concept Ware carried over while raising her own.

“I raised my family from the farm basically. We didn’t have a lot of money so you learn to utilize what you have, and we had our own beef and our own garden.”

Ware hires on two extra workers in the summer, one part-time and one full-time. Aside from that, she keeps it a family affair.

“Often the hardest part is finding good help,” she laughed. “It’s not easy to find people who enjoy it as much as we do.”

With business having increased fivefold since the program began, they’ve begun to use heated greenhouses to expand their growing season along with their expanding client list.

As long as supply can match the demand, Ware said she plans to continue expanding.

“As long as we can keep handling it and get some help, we’ll keep growing.”

Journal Pioneer

Geographic location: Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Kensington

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