Brothers Jason and Kevin Stallaert love farming. They grew up on a tomato farm in the Chatham-Kent region of southern Ontario; in 1994, both left careers in the trades to return to it. “We have some of the best farmland in Canada around here,” says Jason, as well as the longest growing season of anywhere in the country.
What they didn’t love was how the farming industry was set up in their area. If farmers wanted to grow anything besides tomatoes, for which the processing plants are nearby, they had to ship their freight almost 350 kilometres to the warehouses north of Toronto that supply most grocery stores.
The brothers began growing carrots and onions, but with the cost of freight, they could barely break even. In 2004, before “local” was even a buzzword, they opened their own warehouse, Nature’s Finest Produce, in a former tomato-canning plant nearby.