Can­ning boy has room to grow

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - THE CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD

Parker Smi­ley doesn’t need to show up for work at 5:30 a.m., nor is he re­quired to dress ex­actly like his boss.

But all sum­mer long the 13-yearold Can­ning res­i­dent has landed at Ian New­combe’s doorstep at least a half-hour early for a morn­ing of har­vest­ing, wear­ing brown Carhartt over­alls and Blund­stone boots.

This past Sun­day morn­ing was no dif­fer­ent. The pair picked 100 dozen stalks of corn in­side two hours at the 49-hectare Up­per Ca­nard farm. Parker picked 50 dozen and then tended to the busy corn stand bor­der­ing High­way 341 in the An­napo­lis Valley.

Labour Day week­end marked the end of what has been an event­ful har­vest for Parker and com­pany.

“My friends don’t be­lieve that I have job be­cause they think I’m too young,” said Parker while ne­go­ti­at­ing the steady line of cus­tomers ar­riv­ing for their choice of sweet or peaches and cream corn on the cob.

“I like do­ing stuff with my hands. I’m hap­pi­est out­side and I could use a bit of ex­tra money. It re­ally gets busy here at around five or six when peo­ple get off work and some of them will buy up to five dozen corn on the cob. I like see­ing them come and go­ing away with re­ally good fresh food that I helped grow.”

Parker is count­ing down the days to his 14th birth­day when he’s old enough to get a trac­tor licence and he can hit the roads. For now, Parker must be sat­is­fied with on­the-farm trac­tor du­ties.

“I’ll har­row down some of these fields, so it’s like crush­ing the crops down with a big tiller. I’d love to be a farmer,” he said.

He came to the farm three sum­mers ago full of de­sire but with zero farm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. A fam­ily friend rec­om­mended the boy to New­combe and his wife and farm co-owner An­drea Palmer. He wanted to be a farmer and ini­tially the cou­ple won­dered whether the 11-year-old could with­stand the gru­elling work and un­godly hours.

Parker quickly put their con­cerns to rest and now they are hop­ing to pass on the 30-year-old busi­ness to the young­ster.

“He’s an old soul in a young boy’s body,” said Palmer with a laugh. “Our kids ran the fields for us but they never loved farm­ing and it was more about mak­ing money.

“Money drives Parker. He has things he wants to do in life and he wants to have his money, too, but he has a real pas­sion for farm­ing. We re­ally hope his de­sire con­tin­ues be­cause as he gets into his mid and late teens we’d like him to con­tinue on and man­age the farm.”

Parker is among a four­some of teenagers em­ployed dur­ing sum­mer­time har­vest. They’ve weath­ered the ups and downs of the in­dus­try like veter­ans, said Palmer. The farm sur­vived a dev­as­tat­ing frost to start the sea­son, los­ing what Palmer thought would be a quar­ter of the sea­son’s corn yield.

“But re­mark­ably, Mother Na­ture works in very strange ways, the crops re­cov­ered and pro­duced quite well. But it was heart­break­ing and there were a few tears shed, for the kids, too. Parker and the kids had un­cov­ered the early growth and they saw what the corn looked like, and it was brown. That’s just sick­en­ing to them be­cause of all their hard work. They were won­der­ing how much sum­mer work they’d get.”

But a two month stretch of hu­mid weather has worked magic on the heat-loving crop. Parker’s loy­alty is pay­ing off. Out of his 25- hour work week, Parker man­ages the corn stand roughly four days a week.

By day’s end the 100 or so dozen corn cobs for sale usu­ally dis­ap­pear. He al­ways gets a few bucks in tips. About a quar­ter of the corn har­vested at the farm goes to the road side stand and the rest goes to lo­cal mar­kets.

“He made six dol­lars in tips the other day and he asks me, ‘Can I keep those? I say, ‘If peo­ple are leav­ing you a tip for your ser­vice, cer­tainly.’ He’s a great lit­tle am­bas­sador for us.”

“If we tell him to be at the house for six, he’ll be there for 5:30 or 5 a.m. He’ll be sit­ting on our doorstep. We’ll hear the dogs bark­ing and look out­side and he’s out there wear­ing his Carhartt’s and Blund­stone’s, just like Ian.”

Parker’s grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity and his fu­ture is set on New­combe’s Sweet Corn. He only wishes more of his friends had the same af­fec­tion for farm­ing.

“I think An­napo­lis Valley wouldn’t be as great if it wasn’t for farm­ers and all the work they’ve done for so many years. I think farm­ing fresh food is im­por­tant. I don’t have a lot of friends who farm. They like video games. I mean, I like them but I don’t play them be­cause I’m out­side most of the time.”

Glenn Ells, the former Kings North MLA and min­is­ter of en­vi­ron­ment, paid Parker a visit Aug. 26, buy­ing up five dozen cobs for a church corn boil. He fig­ures the bud­ding farmer has got a bright fu­ture ahead of him.

“He’s the fu­ture of agri­cul­ture and this is the fu­ture of agri­cul­ture in Nova Sco­tia,” said Ells, a farmer and grad­u­ate of Nova Sco­tia Agri­cul­ture Col­lege and McGill Univer­sity.

“In a smaller pop­u­lated prov­ince this will be the way, di­rect from the field to the cus­tomer.”

And Parker is the boy to make it work.

“We love him, and he’s grown on us,” said Palmer.

“You need to be hard working and you need to be com­mit­ted. It makes bet­ter peo­ple out of these kids. We cer­tainly have high hopes for Parker.”

AN­DREW RANKIN

Parker Smi­ley keeps his cus­tomer Glenn Ells happy with an or­der of five dozen corn at New­combe Sweet Corn in Up­per Ca­nard on Aug. 26.

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