Hot peppers

Have you ever dreamed of having a huge garden filled with dozens of different fruits and vegetables? Even better, a garden that you just happily walk into without a second thought about weeding, insects, or hungry animals? Rideau Pines Farm and Market is such a place – the perfect destination for those who love the idea of a garden, but don’t have the land, time, and/or talent to pull it off.

Rideau Pines Farm and market is a fresh fruit and vegetable farm that provides the option of picking your own produce. Matt Vandenberg, the owners’ son, showed me around the astounding variety of vegetables and fruit in the fields behind the market store. I saw tomatoes, peppers, squash, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, beans, eggplant, rutabaga, swiss chard – and at least 4 types of fall raspberries at their peak for picking. And there were more veggies in the fields beyond – pumpkins, corn, melons, brussel sprouts, and on and on.

Visitors are welcome to pick anything in the garden and pay for it at the front. Pre-picked vegetables and fruit are also available, as well as a variety of prepared local foods such as preserves and pickles. With the bumper crop of raspberries this year, Rideau Pines has also been freezing the fruit and making it available in vacuum-sealed bags – perfect for enjoying raspberries into the winter.

The farm is owned by the Vandenbergs, who purchased it 30 years ago when it was “an abandoned and poorly drained dairy farm.” John Vandenberg is the former head of the Horticulture Department of the Kemptville campus of the University of Guelph, and is an international horticultural consultant. This is a family with strong agricultural connections and expertise, which was evident when talking with John Vandenberg’s son, Matt.

Rideau Pines has become popular with Eastern European immigrants who are looking for specific fruits and vegetables from back home, such as black and red currants, or particular types of peppers. The Vandenbergs are now experimenting with growing Siberian berries – the plant is capable of surviving north of the 60th parallel.

Rideau Pines is also popular with local restaurants. In fact, Matt says that restaurants buy up everything that isn’t sold as part of the retail operation. This is a great set-up for the business, because it means a steady demand for the produce during the week, not just on weekends when more people visit the farm.

Rideau Pines Farm and Market is open daily during the picking season. The hours are posted on their website. If you like raspberries, now is the time to go, because the bushes are bursting with fruit!