Son In Law Produce
Here is our Family Farm Story:
The love of agriculture has deep roots here at Son in Law Produce Ltd.
Behind every name is a story. The story behind Son in Law Produce Ltd. begins with the in-laws, Gary and Blanche Godelie.
Both Gary and Blanche were raised in farming families. Their parents were share growers on tobacco farms from the mid-1950s through to the 1980s. Tobacco was a large agricultural commodity in those days. The crop played an important role in building up the local community; a community filled with friendships forged over a lifetime.
Growers on the move
Being share growers wasn’t always easy. It involved moving many times from farm to farm and community to community. Blanche’s parents, Camiel and Alice Bossy, eventually bought a farm and settled in the Otterville area where they continued to farm for many years.
Gary’s parents, Alphonse and Kathleen Godelie, were dedicated to a farm outside of Delhi on Shaffer Side Road. They settled on this farm as share growers where they spent many great years farming before retiring to a small hobby farm just one concession away.
The fresh, fleeting bounty of summer
Gary and Blanche both grew up with large family vegetable gardens. Back in tobacco days, families prepared and fed the whole tobacco gang three meals a day. These gardens played a significant role in nourishing the countless mouths at the table each summer.
They also helped fill pantries and cellars with preserves, stored for use in the winter months when fresh produce wasn’t readily available.
Both Gary and Blanche recall that if a particular crop wasn’t available in the family garden, you simply weren’t eating it. Their mutual love of sweet corn is rooted in these childhood memories. At that time, sweet corn from the family gardens was only available for one or two weeks each summer. The meals with fresh corn were some of the best. You savoured every bite because you knew it was going to be a long year of waiting before you would once again taste delicious, fresh, sweet corn.
Lettuce didn’t come from the grocery store. Instead it was cut by hand in the garden or greenhouse, washed and made into garden fresh salads. Even though some bites were crunchy with little bits of sand that clung to the leaves undetected, you still enjoyed the taste of freshness! Potatoes, onions and carrots were the big staple of these gardens as they are what carried the families through most of the winter. Back in these days, each family was able to raise a variety of livestock; from horses for farm work and cattle for milk, to chickens for eggs.
A new farm family is formed
Gary and Blanche met through shared ties to the tobacco farming community. They enjoyed their dating years, spending weekends at the Belgian Hall in Delhi. Once married, they began farming – some 45 years ago – with a focus on tobacco. They began as farm managers for the Gilvesy family in Tillsonburg. Eventually they moved their family of six to the Otterville area to share grow for Blanche’s uncle, Joe Bossy.
1n 1981, a dream became a reality! The farm on the corner of Otterville Road and Highway 59 – a farm that Gary passed each day on the school bus when he was a boy and dreamed of one day owning – came up for sale. The couple purchased the farm, which to this day is still referred to by the family as the “home” farm.
The tobacco industry faced some adversity in the early 2000s and it was at this point that Gary and Blanche made a decision to transition out. The love of agriculture remained strong in their blood and the need to continue to prosper was very important to them. They choose to go back to the basics of what they knew; growing fresh produce. They pivoted their operation to focus on the production of potatoes and sweet corn.
The first year they focused on growing and building the potato business. The sweet corn venture was already underway. Blanche and Gary’s son and three daughters started growing and selling the family favourite as a means of earning extra money for their post-secondary studies. The family expanded on the sweet corn venture. This mixed farming operation continued to further evolve with the addition of strawberries, raspberries, specialty potatoes and green beans.
Enter the “Son in Law”
After years of building the vegetable operation, Gary and Blanche were at an age where they wanted to start gearing down and preparing for retirement. At the same time, their son-in-law, Jason (married to Gary and Blanche’s daughter Christine) left his job as an Operations Manager for a local ginseng company.
Jason joined G & B Godelie Inc. in 2016 as a paid employee to get a feel for the operation and see if this was a venture he was interested in pursuing. In 2017, a joint partnership was formed: Jason D’Hulster and G. & B. Godelie Inc. As Jason was being brought into the fold of the business, Gary introduced him to everyone in the same way: “This is my son in law, Jason”. From there, it stuck.
Jason and Christine felt “The Son in Law Produce Ltd.” was the perfect business name. It captures the spirit of their new venture, symbolizing both tradition and transition. Jason and his wife Christine plan to continue to farm and work with her parents in a way that allows Gary and Blanche begin to slow down to enjoy the life they have worked hard for. Jason and Christine look forward to growing the farming operation and are now raising their own family on the farm.
The Son In Law
Being born and raised as a tobacco share grower’s son had its ups, downs and difficulties. As a young boy, it was sometimes hard not to be weighed down by the hard work and adversity that come with farming. But little did I know those hard times and adversity would be what would set the path for my future.
There were four of us in my family: myself, my younger brother Shaun, and my parents, Roger and Annie. Each move to a new farm made us stronger as a family as we journeyed into new homes, new farms and new communities. Moving from town to town meant leaving friends behind but no matter where I went, I always had my best friend, my brother. From fishing to swimming to racing bikes through the farm to the endless hours of irrigating our crops; whether at work or play, we always had a great time together.
The four of us were one of the closest families I have ever known. I think that all those years of hard work, sweat and tears made a bond between us that no one can break. No matter where we moved, there was always a spot set aside for a garden. Our garden didn’t look as diverse as the produce aisle we see in supermarkets today, but it had those staples that we knew came with summer: sweet corn, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, cucumbers and row or two of onions to name a few. Tomatoes fresh from the vine were consumed over the years for our favorite lunch of toasted tomato sandwiches.
My parents always supported me in my life decisions and still do to this day. It was through their support and guidance that I pursued my career in horticulture. My career began early when I decided to build a greenhouse from scratch and started my annual and perennial business “D’Hulsters Multiple Gardens”. It was during these years that I met a wonderful farm girl who lived just down the road. Christine and I married after a year of dating. We have had many wonderful adventures together over the years! Raising our two children Audrey and Ashton has been one of life’s biggest blessings.
When I think of my childhood, the majority of my memories are farming and agriculture related (and a of my grandparents’ cottage in Turkey Point). Growing up on a tobacco farm instilled in me the importance of hard work and being dedicated and committed to any job. Just because I was a girl was not excuse! It didn’t matter what the job was, it was to get done.
Growing up all the hard work, sweat and early mornings weren’t always appreciated, but now I find I still sometimes long for those simple days! Simple days that consisted of: me and my siblings working and playing together; the sound of the irrigation gun late at night; the smell of early spring and the ground being warmed by the sun, and; the unmistakable feel and smell that always came after a good rain.
Tobacco days were long and hard but were often rewarded with trips to our grandparents’ house. Going to my grandma Alice’s and Pops Camille’s farm always filled me with joy and love. Being an avid gardener, my grandma Alice definitely passed along her green thumb to me. I vividly remember the beauty of her flower and vegetable gardens and passing the days submerged in their beauty. Nothing beat picking a handful of raspberries for an afternoon snack or picking and eating green beans right out of the garden.
Returning to school in the fall always was made to feel a bit better knowing that the fall potato harvest was up and coming at my Godelie grandparents’ farm. My aunts, uncles and cousins would spend a whole weekend digging my grandpa Alphonse’s prized potatoes – Red Chieftain and Bakers. My cousins and I would ride on the wagon and chase each other across the apple orchard eating apple after apple fresh off the tree.
My grandma Kitty’s meals were always delicious, and I miss them immensely even to this day. Part of what made grandma Kitty’s meals so special the love she put into them. Every June strawberry jam making was the kickoff to her season, followed by blanching, bagging and freezing sweet corn and green beans. Pickles – including her picked beets – were another dedicated task that she undertook with such love.
Looking back now, I can clearly see how all of this has had a hand in the creation of me! However, in my rebellious teenage years, I wanted nothing more than to escape the “boring” farm life. I followed my dreams of living in the city and pursuing my passion to become an interior designer. As I entered into my third and final year of school, my city girl life was immensely impacted. I met this wonderful guy… fell in love… but the only problem was… he was a farmer.
Needless to say, my city life was cut short after five years in the industry. After Jason and I married, I changed career paths and went back to school for my Bachelor of Education. Now I can enjoy the best of both worlds as I teach design and an agriculture program at a local high school and I can take part in our business in my spare time.