Supplier Series: The Good Peach
Ontario is full of amazing fruits, but it doesn't all grow in the KW area. Instead, we have awesome people like Heather Bugg of The Good Peach to bring us fruits that grow in other parts of Ontario. Without The Good Peach, we wouldn't have the tasty golden plums from Niagara for the sorbet that we scoop today!
The Good Peach is a small company that connects the KW community with Palatine Fruits and Roses of Niagara to bring us beautiful produce and flowers directly and skip the extensive sorting processes that apply rigid industry standards and restrict large volumes of edible food from reaching grocery shelves. The company officially started in 2015 but Mary Jane and Jan Petter had been developing list of members for 8 years already through word of mouth and a stellar reputation for bringing the best produce from Niagara. Heather took over The Good Peach last year and her cousin Jackie runs their Guelph Market. Currently, they work exclusively with Rene and Eva of Palatine Fruits and Roses for their tender fruit.
When thinking about the ultimate mission of The Good Peach, Heather recalls a process based mostly in aesthetics that produce must pass before consumers get the chance to enjoy it: "The fruit you find in the "grocery" stores has to go through an extensive sorting process with ridiculous industry standards. Fruit must be a certain size and ripeness before it will be accepted. It must pass inspection. The rest....thrown out, "lost" or sold without the farmer seeing the money. Sometimes the farmer will get fined for sending sub-par fruit but imported fruit, as you may have noticed, does not have to pass these rigid inspections."
Heather is passionate about offering Palatine Fruits and Roses a hand in bypassing this industry process where she knows there are consumers that appreciate natural fruits as the best fruits: "My mission is to make sure that Rene's fruit [goes directly] into the hands of you. You, who love fruit for being itself, big or little, pock marked and self-healed, grown with love and respect. Fruit deserves better I say! You deserve better than "grocery" store standards. I want Palatine Fruit everywhere - in your ice cream, in your local cider, in your local craft brews. Fruit like this deserves the spotlight. We must love and support the farmers out there who are really still doing it out of love."
Palatine Fruits and Roses are much more than just a supplier to Heather and The Good Peach; "they are like family to me", she says. "Rene's knowledge is untouchable and every time I'm up there picking up fruit, he's usually leading me to an orchard area here or there to taste a new fruit he's growing or showing me how to pick ripe peaches, tools they used in Switzerland, the ridiculous "Card of Standard Size" as I call it, for measuring the perfect size of plum. I've learned how to graft trees and roses, how to make a stable variety of a certain rose colour and just how ridiculous the agriculture industry truly is - so much we don't know about the food we buy! He got me reading Wendell Berry and lit the fire of outrage when it comes to the vast amount of food waste and corruption going on in the background."
Heather formed a close relationship with Rene and Eva of Palatine Fruits over the years even prior to taking over The Good Peach. She first heard from them that The Good Peach was looking for someone to continue the business, and Heather jumped at the chance to work with them and keep the goodness flowing to KW, despite having a newborn in her lap. Over the past year, Heather's commitment to The Good Peach and it's mission has brought her new opportunities and partnerships:
"This year, as I grew more familiar with the business and what I could handle having five kids home for summer vacation, I was contacted by Blueberry Hill in Rodney and agreed to re-sell their blueberries. I'm originally from around that area and I know how hard it is to move sustainable organic fruit as income levels are lower in that part of Ontario. I want to support people I know who work hard and fight the same fight I feel I do with The Good Peach - making sure our loved up fruit makes it to YOU instead of the stores where it is judged and mocked! I also help out my friends in Maryhill sell off their excess berries as they begin their adventures into organic farming. I hope to see them become vendors on the storefront for bulk ordering."
Heather and The Good Peach aren't looking to supply you with every sustainable produce in Ontario; they appreciate that KW already has great sources for vegetables, but have few bringing in fresh, perfect, sustainable fruit. Heather wants to stick to what she knows and loves and what cannot be grown in KW. This makes handling the volatile nature of agriculture more manageable to communicate to customers too:
"I sell what Rene grows. Sometimes we don't get certain varieties due to the weather or pests. Sometimes our quantities are limited. My members are all extremely supportive and understanding of the farming life and I am as candid and as open as I can be with what's going on up in Niagara. We sell sweet cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines, grapes, apples and apricots. He also grows cider apples but I don't re-sell those...yet".
Currently, you can find fruits from The Good Peach being used or sold at Four All Ice Cream, Legacy Greens, Pfenning's Organics and more, including farmers' markets that buy and re-sell. Each partnership Heather forms, she is looking for a mutually beneficial relationship that helps to fuel the passion she has for her work:
"Almut at Pfenning's is my guardian angel and has helped me become a better business woman. She's supportive of the fruit, the culture around it and we share many morals as well as number of kids. I feel like my community is becoming my family and I love them all like they are my own. My strawberry farmer took me for a walk around the fields last year and I sampled so many different varieties, I was so shocked at the difference in flavour; you don't get that at the market stalls. My newer retailers, I'm looking forwards to knowing over time. Many of them are women I've admired from a distance, so it was a happy thing for me to reach out and be able to supply them with our fruit."
Along with delicious Niagara fruit, Heather is able to offer a wealth of knowledge from her experiences to help us (consumers and businesses) better understand what our seasons looks like:
"Tender fruit are precious little babies. Cherry season we dread the rain because cherries do not like it after a certain point. They crack and rot. Late frosts mean many blossoms for peaches, plums and nectarines drop and we suffer great loss later in the season. Peaches! Did you know peaches are so finicky that they do NOT like it too hot or too cold? Market peaches that sit in the sun all day only to go back into coolers will change their texture and taste. Peaches are often sent to processing facilities where they are touched by mechanical hands, de-fuzzed and dipped in a fungicidal bath before they get to you. My peaches come at you with their fuzz intact. Sorry; there is too much I wish people knew."
Four All Ice Cream is so very excited to partner with Heather and The Good Peach to bring us fruit and information about Niagara fruits from Palatine Fruits and Roses this summer. So far, we've created a Golden Plum & Ginger Mint sorbet with our supply from The Good Peach. Heather is also excited to see what kind of flavours we've have already come up with and will keep coming up with: "I never in a million years would have guess that my least favourite fruit would become my most favoured sorbet: the Plum & Ginger Mint was such a delicious surprise! I feel like it's a beautiful relationship seeing the love of ice cream and my love of Rene and Eva's fruit come together."