Fraisière Duquette Strawberries is first generation family-owned-and-operated right here in Clarence Creek, Ontario. Jacques and I have two sons who have worked and occasionally work on the farm. I also have two other sons and a daughter.
Jacques was born and raised in Clarence Creek. I was born in Toronto and moved to Ottawa with my family when I was young. Jacques always wanted to have a fruit and vegetable farm. I always wanted to live on a farm.
In 1992, Jacques bought the land and a year later, he built our home. Since that time, he has worked hard in levelling the land and preparing it annually for our crops. Many years ago, he dug a pond at the back so that we can use it for irrigating our crops. Our pond is visited frequently by a blue heron each summer and we have beavers, muskrats, deer, coyotes, wolves, geese and wild turkeys who sneak onto the land and in or at the pond. Jacques always ensures, however, that they continue on their way. The turkeys and deer love to eat the straw and the strawberry plants. So, it is a constant battle. The muskrats and beavers come down through the Cobbs Lake Creek that runs through our property and try to build their homes in the pond. And, the wolves and coyotes just follow the others here.
Jacques built our sheds and purchased the machinery, equipment and other necessities needed to operate the farm. We have a large specialized cooler in one of the sheds that we use to store plants and produce in.
We started out with 3 acres of strawberries in 1995, when we opened our farm for pre-picked and pick-your-own strawberries. During that first season, both Mrs. Duquette and I were the pickers. We worked long days picking to ensure that everyone received their orders for pre-picked strawberries. Then, much to our relief, we hired our first employees.
There is always a lot of work to do here such as planting; weeding the fields; spreading and placing the straw around the strawberry plants to protect the berries from resting on the ground. Then there is hoeing the fields which goes along with the weeding; placing the strawberry runners, that have grown from the plants, back in the rows; laying out and setting up the irrigation equipment; picking strawberries; and spreading straw on top of the plants in the late fall.
The pumpkins and squash have to be planted by seed; weeded and then harvested in the fall. There is always lots of work to be done here.
We became members of the Berry Growers of Ontario and the Eastern Ontario Berry Growers Association in 1994 and through our membership, we have access to and contacts with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs where we are constantly learning about the new plants being produced; the needs of the different plants such as the soil ph and compaction; and weed, insect and disease control.
We hire local students to work on our farm and have seen these wonderful people growing up. Some are parents now and bring their children back here each season. We laugh when we recall the many incidences that have happened along the way.
In 2013, we decided to explore the fascinating lives of honeybees. We have had honeybees on our property for years from other beekeepers where we reaped the reward of having the bees pollinate our plants. We enjoy every minute. We are members of the local beekeeper association and the Ontario Beekeeper Association and welcome the advise and knowledge we receive from them and our fellow beeks. We have some crazy stories to tell of our experience, just ask "Bee Whisperer Jacques". We started selling honey in 2014.