Arjen and Henriet DeBruin of DeBruin’s Greenhouses are famous for their greenhouse tomatoes, their luxuriant herbs and lettuces, their four shockingly beautiful daughters and the smiles their customers are used to seeing on their faces – the ones that say “I’ve been working in the sun since March and life is good.”
Almost everything was as expected on April 19th when they joined us at Market for the first time – same smiles and gorgeous greens, tomatoes still to come of course, but it’s April – but this year things are a little different owing to an equipment malfunction last month that threw them into high-gear Fix It mode. A sudden and unexpected lowering of the temperature in their grand tomato greenhouse reduced their nursery of fabulous tomato vines-to-be to shadows of their former selves and put a serious strain on the DeBruin family’s smiles and their prospects for the summer.
Fear not: the DeBruins are dyed-in-the-rough farmers, and Dutch farmers at that, and Dutch farmers growing food in our climate. That expression “necessity breeds invention?” That came from a Dutch farmer living in the Slate River Valley.
A new crop of tomatoes is already winding its way into the sky in the big greenhouse. This late in the season it was a challenge to find seedlings that would work for their needs, but persistence pays off. Due to the limited availability of large quantities of the same plant the DeBruins have opted for more variety than usual, so this year you’ll find new goodies on their table, including a crop of saucy roma tomatoes that many of us are already fantasizing about getting our hands on.
Even better: most of the frost-nipped tomato vines were cut back as soon as they were discovered. Laid to rest beneath the swinging coir platforms in the greenhouse, they’re sending tentative new heads up to greet the sun. This is great news: although that original crop will be delayed, resulting in a slow start to the cherry and grape tomatoes we know you’re all anticipating, it will catch up to the others. Henriet and Arjen are even now moving the recovering plants into another greenhouse, effectively creating a double crop for the year. End result? Double the tomatoes for Thunder Bay this summer.
This is a massive opportunity for supporters of local food. DeBruin’s have been discussing opening a third tomato greenhouse for sometime now, and due to these unexpected circumstances it’s happening this year – albeit on a tentative trial basis.
What can you do? Buy tomatoes this summer. Buy lots of tomatoes. Tell your friends about DeBruin’s fabulous tomatoes, ask for them at your favourite restaurants. Buy them in bulk come fall and freeze or can them (we’ll show you how!) so you can enjoy DeBruin’s tomatoes instead of the salty grocery-store stuff year-round. We know that Thunder Bay can support a second houseful of tomato vines – – let’s prove to DeBruin’s that they should do a double crop every year!
What’s available now? You’ll see the DeBruins at Market pretty much every Saturday from now till the end of the season this fall. Starting out with living basil and lettuces, their offerings will grow as the weather warms. Look for the first tomatoes around Mother’s Day!