New Vendor: Whitefish Valley Vegetables
“The beets are the pick of the crop today,” Mark Jantunen advises a customer browsing his table. “Oh?” she asks, eyeing up the sole bouquet of dill still unsold beside them. Mark goes on to describe the two different varieties of beet he’s raised this year. The Detroit Reds are a little sweeter, good for salads and eating raw; the Cylindra beets’ shape makes them easy to slice. Both are heirloom varieties he’s picked for our climate, and he’s been paying careful attention to be sure they’re only harvested when they are at peak ripeness for flavour and texture.
Peak ripeness is an expression you’ll hear lots from Mark, who came into the Market scene this spring with a goal of finding and carving out a niche among our other producers to help make sure you taste the best Thunder Bay has to offer. Last year Mark – an ecologist by education and interest – was in BC embarking on a career path in forestry when a cycling accident left him physically unable to pursue his plans, so he returned to his family in rural Thunder Bay and did some soul-searching while he figured out his next course. The answer was part therapy and part fate, we think.
Mark’s been a competitive horticulturalist from childhood – his prize vegetables were regularly exhibited at Hymers Fall Fair – and decided when he came back to the area to restart his hobby garden on a grand scale. Instead of hobby pursuits like seed-saving and breeding, though, Mark applied himself to growing vegetables for profit, applying his ecology background and the principles of organic gardening and permaculture to a production regimen that includes mixing his own organic fertilizer, focusing closely on soil health and carefully managing crop rotations to produce vegetables that are hardy and beautiful and jammed full of nutrients, flavour and colour.
Today you’ll find Whitefish Valley Vegetables at Market with a selection of vegetables he’s chosen for both our climate and our patrons and harvested just as they ripen. Mark avoids hot-weather crops, focusing instead on root vegetables that you would often only find at Market at the end of the year when people are buying them for over-winter storage. Talk to Mark about the different varieties of carrots, onions, beets, turnips, potatoes and cabbage he’s got on his table, and don’t be shy about asking how best to cook them; he’s eager to offer advice and experience to help you make dinner delicious and he sure knows his stuff.
Meet Mark Saturdays as long as his supplies last, and Wednesdays while our Wednesday outdoor Markets run, likely until the end of September.