Tour spot­lights nor­folk farms

Tillsonburg News - - OPINION - Monte Son­nen­berg

nor­folk es­tab­lished it­self as a ma­jor pro­ducer of trees when the St. wil­liams Forestry Sta­tion launched in 1908.

more than one bil­lion trees have been shipped from that fa­cil­ity. it is said no one in on­tario can look out onto the land­scape with­out see­ing a tree that got its start in St. wil­liams.

en­vi­rons whole­sale nurs­ery was es­tab­lished on high­way 24 im­me­di­ately east of the sta­tion about 20 years ago.

en­vi­rons has ex­panded to 500 acres in sev­eral lo­ca­tions and is writ­ing new chap­ters in the county’s story as a ma­jor in­cu­ba­tor of trees. this year, en­vi­rons will ship 120,000 saplings and seedlings, most of them shade trees. at its peak, the nurs­ery em­ploys 25 people.

buy­ers in­clude re­tail nurs­eries, land­scap­ers and mu­nic­i­pal parks de­part­ments that have big holes to fill now that the emer­ald ash borer has done its worst. over­see­ing pro­duc­tion is man­ager bill beni, a na­tive of the niagara area with a back­ground in farm­ing and a good sense of hu­mour.

“when i men­tion that i grew up on a fruit farm, people say that ex­plains a lot,” beni said. “they say you can’t take the farm out of the boy and it’s true. i love it.”

en­vi­rons was one of five stops wed­nes­day on nor­folk’s an­nual farm tour. the county or­ga­nizes the tour to show­case the di­ver­sity of agri­cul­tural op­er­a­tions in nor­folk. nearly 30 people spent the day rid­ing a bus in search of in­sights on the state of farm­ing in the lo­cal area.

delhi Coun. mike Colum­bus is one of the or­ga­niz­ers. Colum­bus broke new ground this year with a stop high­light­ing some of the ad­vanced un­der­tak­ings in the area of live­stock. this in­cluded a slide pre­sen­ta­tion over the lunch hour in lang­ton on boar stud ser­vices cour­tesy of to­tal Swine ge­net­ics of Court­land.

Colum­bus said there is in­ter­est­ing and im­por­tant work un­der­way in the area of an­i­mal hus­bandry and that he in­tends to high­light this dur­ing fu­ture tours.

back at en­vi­rons, beni said this was a good year for grow­ing young trees but not with­out its chal­lenges. en­vi­rons has no ground­wa­ter supply, re­ly­ing in­stead on ir­ri­ga­tion ponds. when it is hot and dry, beni and his crew have to mar­shal their re­sources.

“over­all it was good,” he said. “we had chal­lenges to meet with wa­ter, and the heat at times was hard on the guys. this sum­mer has been dry at times.”

beni pointed to a long row of white fir, each about half the size of a Christ­mas tree. they couldn’t take the heat and have since died. other trees, beni said, fall dor­mant when sub­jected to ex­tended pe­ri­ods of heat in ex­cess of 90 de­grees F.

an of­fi­cial with Forests on­tario re­ported last week that the prov­ince’s wild nut crop is no­tice­ably be­low av­er­age. Site ad­viser greg greer said some trees have hardly any nuts at all and that the on­tario squir­rel pop­u­la­tion is look­ing at a hard win­ter.

this could have im­pli­ca­tions for op­er­a­tions such as en­vi­rons but beni has heard noth­ing yet from his seed sup­pli­ers. at this point, beni knows the mar­ket could be a lit­tle short for white oak be­cause a frost this spring set back acorn pro­duc­tion dur­ing the blos­som phase.

other stops on wed­nes­day’s tour in­cluded the ap­ple place in Sim­coe, harry’s berries on wind­ham road 10, and S&i Commodities of Vit­to­ria, pro­duc­ers of sweet pota­toes and to­bacco. mson­nen­berg@postmedia.com

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