Warren family farm has become a major supplier of lettuce for northern Ontario
Ferme Ojalammi in Warren, Ont., is a huge producer when it comes to fresh vegetables, especially lettuce.
Farmer Matt Ojalammi is constantly tending to the roughly 3,000 heads of lettuce growing in his greenhouse. The farm is owned by Ojalammi and his young family. The lettuce is shipped to Smith’s Markets in Greater Sudbury, as well as a local restaurant.
"It's been a real adventure and it's been a lot of fun,” said Ojalammi. “Who knows where it will take us? But that's the main goal -- what can we carve out for ourselves in our later years?"
Ojalammi and his young family moved from the bright city lights of Sudbury to a quiet rustic Warren countryside just four years ago. Starting with chickens and a garden, they added two large greenhouses focusing on hydroponic growing of tomatoes and lettuce.
"This just seemed like such a viable operation,” said Renee Germain, Matt’s wife and partner on the farm. "We knew it would work in northern Ontario. We obviously had to learn a whole lot -- and we're still learning a whole lot."
Learning from a North Bay-area farm that also produces hydroponic vegetables, the family picked it up quickly and now harvests lettuce for Kate’s Kountry Kitchen, a restaurant in Warren.
"They're a great couple to work with. It's great to say to customers ‘Hey this is grown down the road’,” said owner Kate Kuepfer. “How often does that happen that we have local lettuce in the winter in northern Ontario?"
Besides farming, both Germain and Ojalammi work full time. Still relatively new to the farming game, they still find ways to balance work life, farming and taking care of their three young children.
"We're up early and work pretty late," said Ojalammi. "We work Monday-Friday in our day jobs and we do things we can or we need to do in the morning like check on the greenhouses."
This summer, the family was able to bring on two summer students through the Canada Summer Jobs application program for a crucial helping hand around the farm. The family has one tip for anyone interested in farming.
"Do it as a partnership -- don't do it alone. Have good balance,” said Germain. “The lessons can be very hard, so you'll want someone to help you balance it out."
The family is looking at expanding their greenhouses in hopes of quadrupling the amount of product they can produce.