Odds are good most of us have no idea what a haskap is, but if one Oxford County farmer has her way the berry will be a household name at some point.
Patricia Van Diepen started Plaid Shirt Farms in 2017 with the idea to try something different. “I grew up in the apple industry and with agriculture. We were looking for something that not very many people had around, so a berry or berries that are extremely healthy for you and taste delicious.” Patricia works off the farm as well doing some contract food safety and auditing jobs while her husband and business partner Warren Strong is full-time on the farm.
Along with haskaps the farm grows black currants, garlic, rhubarb, gooseberries, red currants, San Marzano tomatoes, and specialty peppers like anchos. Patricia said the haskaps are the stars of the farm. “They are super healthy, and they taste good too. I haven’t had one person say they didn’t like them. They are sweet, tart, tender, oblong fruit, not firm like a blueberry.” They are an early crop, coming out in early June. “We picked our first crop June 4th this season. We have 10 different varieties, and they all look and taste a bit different. It is really interesting to have a fruit with that many shapes and that many flavours,” she added.
The farm will soon release its haskap line of products and it will likely include a jam, a sauce and pure unsweetened juice. Patricia said while the fresh season is over there are plenty of products left. “Currently we only have frozen haskaps and black currants. We can’t ship frozen products but pop by the farm between nine and noon on Saturday mornings, or by appointment.”
As for where the farm’s name came from, Patricia said it came out of a lot of effort. “Doesn’t every farmer wear a plaid shirt? We hunted for a name and tested out over 300 possibilities that were mostly already taken so we came up with that.”
The farm’s website features a recipe section, something Patricia wishes she had more time to explore. “This is always a work in progress. I know there are a lot more recipes out there, but hubby wants pictures to go with them which means I need to bake,” she laughed. She added that the tarts are amazing. I knew they would be good, but I had no idea they would be that good.”
As for the future of the operation, Patricia said they do want to get bigger down the road, and they do have plans to sell another product. “If everything goes well, we would like to do a pumpkin patch, that would be from mid-September to the end of October.”
Plaid Shirt Farms is located on Otterville Road in Norwich Township. For more information go to their website plaidshirtfarms.com.