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Wednesday, 23 May 2012 07:58

Nanton’s Paradise Hill Farms growing again

Written by  Taylor Shire
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It’s been a long time coming for Karen Legault, but her first crop of famous southern Alberta tomatoes are finally ready.

“We’re just starting to pick the first of them,” said Legault, who owns Paradise Hill Farms with her husband Tony.
Paradise Hill Farms, a tomato farm in Nanton, was devastated by a fire Jan. 4 earlier this year.
“We were set to plant Jan. 10, so we were in the final stages of preparing the greenhouse when the fire hit,” said Karen, whose four children also help out on the farm.
The fire, which started after a power line was knocked over by the wind, destroyed or damaged five homes, seven out-buildings and killed livestock in the Nanton area.
The flames hit the Paradise Hill Farm quite hard. It killed two-thirds of the sheep, two of three horses, several work vehicles and the barn. The farm’s greenhouses, where the tomatoes are grown, were also severely damaged.
“It was a powerful fire. It was definitely something I’ll never forget,” said Karen.
The Legault’s fixed what they could and planted their first crop in mid-March. Those tomatoes are just starting to come in now, even though they only have about two-thirds of their normal production area planted.
“Normally, we would have been in production in March and we would have been flying by now,” said Karen.
Paradise Hill farms supplies 23 Calgary Co-ops with fresh tomatoes twice a week. They also have a farm store in Nanton, but this year, they are obviously behind schedule.
The other greenhouse, a 12,000-square-foot structure, was damaged to the point they are still fixing it up. The roof needs to be replaced, but Karen said they should be ready to start working on the inside in a week.
“We hope to have it planted by mid-to-end June,” she said. “Planting one crop in June instead of January, that’s six months behind on that crop.
“With tomatoes, you just do one crop a year. Normally, January to the end of November is when our season runs.
So the fact that we’re planting in June, you still have to call the end of your crop year by December because you have to turn the crop around and get it on track for 2013.”
After the Calgary Co-op heard about the fire, Legault said they were quick to respond. She said they have been amazing to work with.
“We were pretty worried,” said Karen. “They lose their supply and maybe there goes our relationship, but they have been so great. They actually came out in March, all the produce managers and the produce director, came out and helped us plant the plants.”
Karen said she considers the people from the Calgary Co-op as friends, rather than just a supplier.
“We’ve been shipping there for 12 years,” she said. “It was pretty nice to know that the support was there.”
Cindy Drummond, manager of communications with the Calgary Co-operative Association, said there was no chance they were going to leave the Legaults hanging.
“Within hours we were reaching out and saying what can we do and how can we help,” said Drummond. “It was really great when we had over 20 employees go out there a few months ago and we got our hands dirty and we planted tomatoes.”
Drummond said this was a chance for the Calgary Co-op to give back.
“A lot of people talk about supporting local growers and Canadian growers, but this was actually a chance to walk-the-walk as opposed to just talking-the-talk,” she said.
“We just really think that we’re making a difference if we can provide the 0pportunity for these people to make their living.”
Pam Woodall, president of the Nanton Chamber of Commerce, was kind of surprised when a large business reached out to a small community.
“This is the kind of thing that you really only think of happening in a small town, where we all really reach out and help each other in those times,” she said.
“It was pretty surprising and amazing and certainly sort of shows the level of value that Calgary Co-op has for Paradise Hill.”
For information and an update on the tomatoes, visit the Paradise Hill Farm website at or phone 403-646-3276.

Read 8150 times Last modified on Wednesday, 23 May 2012 08:02