The Queen of Green Thumbs!
Anyone who knows Shannon Vanlenthe knows she has been dubbed the Squash Queen for a number of years. And she’s proudly earned that title for a reason! Not only is it her nickname, but it has also been the name of her business since she started it about 10 years ago, way out in the scenic hills of South Gillies.
Shannon and her husband Dan have been in the business of rural lifestyle farming since they got married. Both were raised within a rural lifestyle setting, Shannon among a family of gardeners (her mother and grandmother), while Dan was born on a farm. Both decided to combine their efforts and continue living this lifestyle after they married. Since then, they’ve developed an even deeper passion for it, a passion that they’ve been able to pass on to their young family.
All farmers know that responsibilities abound in choosing this way of life, and Shannon, Dan and their children are all heavily involved in every busy day of it. The kids are all tasked with their own chores, including various responsibilities in caring for the animals. However, it was Shannon who decided to garden full-time which essentially became the start of her business (and title!), The Squash Queen.
Each season brings on different jobs to be done, but Shannon’s passion for growing things ensures that she never gets tired of her busy routine. Come spring, she is active in the greenhouse, planting and nurturing the start of her bedding-plant side of the business. By mid-May, her greenhouse doors are open to the public, bursting with the colour and aroma of annuals, perennials, hanging baskets and veggie transplants. She carries on until July 1st, when she closes the doors to her greenhouse and begins planting her own vegetable garden. During the summer, Shannon has plenty of summer squash and other vegetables available for purchase, including tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini, beans and cukes. Once Labour Day hits, she harvests a large amount of what is considered her specialties, fall squash (including acorn, spaghetti and butternut) and pumpkins. You can find her at the Thunder Bay Country Market, featuring all of her seasonal goodness, from mid-May right up until the end of October, as well as Hymers Fair (Labour Day weekend). Custom orders are always available by phone or email, for pickup at the market or from the farm itself. As well, they supply a number of restaurants in town with their farm-grown products.
Also a large part of the business, are the pigs the family raises. Since all are pasture-raised, the Vanlenthes take pride in providing the community with fresh, quality pork, one of their most popular pork products being their homemade hot dogs.
Shannon and Dan pride themselves in the lifestyle they have built up and consider themselves very blessed to be able to follow in the footsteps of how they were both raised. They consider it very important to teach this lifestyle to their children, so that the next generation is able to reap these same rewards. Visit the Squash Queen herself, under the orange tent outside at the market building, and you’ll see for yourself how her passion for all things green, shows!