Brantford Expositor

SCOTLAND – Local residents can find a little taste of home most anywhere they go in Ontario thanks to the area’s ability to produce fruits and vegetables of high quality in great abundance.

Residents know a local farm operation is having an impact province-wide when a gigantic processing facility pops up in an area that used to be dominated by rustic barns.

These facilities have several lines for cleaning, sorting and boxing a wide variety of produce. There will be cavernous storage areas and cooling stations and several sunken bays for loading refrigerator trucks.

The idea is to diversify while having everything under one roof for efficient management.

Large facilities of this kind are the new face of agriculture in Norfolk.

They are becoming increasingly common as multi-generational families perfect their craft and sell large retail chains on their ability to produce fruits and vegetables of consistently high quality on demand.

The Komienski family of Scotland is among the latest to join the fray. The family went all-in this past spring with the construction of a 30,000-square-foot, $3-million processing facility on Highway 24, near the Norfolk-Brant county line.

The family welcomed about 35 visitors Wednesday during Norfolk County’s annual Farm Tour. While there, the Komienskis shared insights on what it takes to go from a small grower to a large one.

“We’re a really diverse company,” says Tom Komienski Jr., the fourth generation of the family to carry on the agricultural tradition.

“That’s why we’ve had such good success. Our best advice is the value of diversification. Growing the product is not the hard part. The hard part is marketing.”

Tom Komienski Sr. added that it takes time to accumulate the expertise, land base and contacts needed to go big. He pointed out that his family has been farming for a long time and that patient intelligent growth has been key.

Komienski Sr. said that a grower can only go so far selling production at the Toronto Food Terminal, which can handle only so much volume. The brass ring comes when you get on a first-name basis with senior produce managers at grocery chains, such as Loblaws, Metro and Sobeys.

You have probably enjoyed a Komienski pepper if you eat regularly at Subway. A major break-through objective includes securing a long-term contract with a mega-retailer, such as Costco.

The Komienskis noted that the quality of the area’s output is gaining positive word-of-mouth outside the country. They have noticed increasing interest from major buyers in New York state.

“That’s the next step,” Komienski Sr. said.

The Komienskis have 1,400 acres under tillage and a workforce of 70 consisting mainly of offshore labourers.

Major product lines include sweet corn, melons, peppers, tomatoes and squash. They are also wholesale buyers and sellers with a retail arm and an interest in broiler hens.

Annual payroll is in the range of $850,000 but this could rise to as high as $1 million if the provincial government presses forward with plans to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019.

Komienski Jr. said that would be a challenge requiring serious belt-tightening. His father added that this is especially worrisome because cheap produce from the United States rolls into Ontario every day from jurisdictions that don’t have this kind of wage pressure.

Despite all the roadblocks and pop-up challenges, the Komienski family is bullish on the future.

“I think we have something special here,” Komienski Sr. said.

Other stops on Wednesday’s tour included Archie’s Cabbage in Waterford, Procyk Farms in Wilsonville, Ramblin’ Road Brewery in La Salette, and Hann’s Farms of Delhi.