Prayers at Maple Tree Medows

Prayers at Maple Tree Medows
Three Rivers, MI

Thursday, August 25, 2011

STORY BARN ABROAD -- Thiessen Farm, Ontario

I made a quick trip in April to the Niagara Peninsula where I visited my friends Ron and Lori Thiessen. I was last at the farm four years ago, and much had changed. In addition to growing fruit and some vegetable for market, they are in their second year of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farming. They nearly doubled the number of CSA from the first year to this one. I remember helping to sort and pack peaches in this barn.

SPRING AT THIESSEN FARM -- Jordan Station, Ontario

To see and read what Thiessen Farm looks like now, in the height of harvest, visit their excellent blog --

I am a barn.

And I am a barn within a barn.

I was a post war barn first. A simple barn. A hard won barn.

My nails were rationed. Each day Pete and Jim, neighbors, friends, went to the hardware to get a handful of nails. Each day they got just enough to keep the building of us two side by side barns going. Russian Mennonite farmers, practical, they put two identical barns up. An act of faith. Planting fruit trees with nothing to sell. Tending them. Pruning. Watching through winter and frost, early and late. Hoping on blossoms. Spraying. Rain. Shine. Waiting for cherries, peaches, plums, pears to come.

Back in ’46 we seemed ambitious barns, side by side. And fruit farms cropped up below the Niagara escarpment.

I got fancy in the 70’s and added a walk in cooler. That keeps the soft fruits happy.

Then I got surrounded by a whole new exterior. Basically they built room for packing fruit all around me! Guts still the same. Now more space for packing boxes and conveyer belts to keep those peaches coming.

Like any barn – cats, inventions, old machines, storage, vestiges of history. Here in the spring, I am pretty quiet. Boxes waiting. Containers for plants empty.

But with all those blossoms out there, it won’t seem long – as history goes for me – till the Mexican workers are back and the young farm hands are flying around the trees on jitnees and customers are pulling in the drive to pick up their shares of all that good food.

Yes, I hold generations of stories, in layers, just like this peninsula. There used to be six fruit canning plants on the Niagara Peninsula. Delmonte was one who got our peaches. The last of the canneries moved away last year. And the new owners of Jim’s old farm pulled out all the peach trees. They were canning variety. Wouldn’t sell. So my neighbor barn, my twin, looks just the same on the inside with some new young whipper snapper farmers on the inside, dreaming of feeding people vegetables and all manner of things from this same land.

We’ll see, we’ll see, when summer comes. When the peaches and pears and plums are heavy again – and now tomatoes will try to outshine them….

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