Love and Passion, to Arjen DeBruin, Owner of DeBruin’s Greenhouse in Thunder Bay, is the foundation he cultivates in all aspects of life. DeBruin has been a farmer for over 40 years, striving to not only innovate his crops to be more sustainable, but also share his knowledge with Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario, hoping they pass what he’s taught them, thus becoming more self-sufficient.
DeBruin’s Greenhouse, focuses on Sustainable, Pesticide-Free Local Produce. DeBruin’s has a closed-looped system; their hydroponic greenhouse reuses nutrients and water, meaning there is no run-off to nearby rivers, and the vegetables are grown with 10% of the water a soil-grown vegetable would need.
When I was younger, I went to the Greenhouse, and can remember how DeBruin focused on sustainable farming, and being environmentally-conscious. This winter, DeBruin’s replaced their single use polypropylene strings, needed as their tomato plants grow 30 ft tall, with a steel rod and reusable clips. As an added benefit, these rods allow the tomato plants to be harvested quicker and at the end of the season, the plants can be composted. Everyone Wins!
DeBruin, along with his partner, who sadly passed away a few years ago, created Covenant North Incorporated which aims to work side by side with the Indigenous community to create a farm in Fort Hope. After searching, they found someone who did not want to make a profit from the farm, but rather wanted to feed the community and teach future generations about farming.
The farm was created, and a community, accustomed to shriveled and sprouted potatoes, finally had fresh potatoes. It’s been seven years, and the crop has expanded from potatoes, to carrots, watermelons, and many other fruits and vegetables. Children in the community are also learning, having field trips to the farm where they help, and, at the end of the day, bring home a bag of fresh produce to their families.
Unable to go in person due to current circumstances, DeBruin is still in contact with them, and they’ve recently put in their order for seeds. Once he’s able to go, the next step will be to get the Irrigation system up and running, which will allow the farm to feed water from a nearby river, and not have to rely on rain.
DeBruin spoke of a foundation, built on love and passion; even if a floor falls, it can be rebuilt. This is an important lesson, and it’s evident in his work in the greenhouse and indigenous communities. He thinks about everyone, and his love for the environment and people are clear. I’m excited to see what he does next. He has opened my eyes to the positive impact people can have, and how a solid foundation can impact both communities and the environment for the better.