After closing their operation last fall, most of their farm equipment was offered for sale. Farmer Morris agreed to purchase quite a few of Whittamore’s irrigation pipes and fittings. Today, Mike Whittamore stopped by the farm to drop off the last of the order.
As many of you may know, the Whittamore family has retired from farming “Pick-Your-Own” fruits and vegetables, after more than 60 years of being leaders in the industry.
As longstanding members of many Ontario farm organizations, the Whittamores were always leaders that were willing to share their expertise with others, for the betterment of all farmers in the province. Their pick your own, farm shop, bakery and school tours were always exceptional models of best practices and professionalism. And they became friends to many across Ontario.
Over the last 25 years I have spent many a sleepless spring night on my cell phone with Mike Whittamore, as we irrigated the fields to protect our strawberry blossoms from frost. “Are you watering yet? What time did it start to freeze at your place?” We would keep each other awake, share a laugh and fight back against Mother Nature together. Because that’s what farmers do. And we were in it together. I can clearly recall one exceptionally frost plagued season. We had both been up five or six nights in a row fighting the frost. I was sleep deprived and exhausted. Around the sixth night I was completely worn out. Beat. On our nightly call I finally said “Mike, I give up. I can’t do this anymore. The forecast is calling for frost AGAIN TOMORROW. I’m just going to go to sleep and let the #$@! berries freeze.” Instantly, Mike replied “You CAN’T do that. You’ve got too much invested. We’ve done six nights together, you can do one more. Don’t give up now. You can do it.” And he was right. I had come too far to quit. So, I battled on. I don’t remember how the crop turned out that year, but we saved our crops and it wasn’t a wipe out. And I had Mike to thank. So, each year, midnight frost chats became a part of our farming life. I’m going to miss those chats this year. Mike likely won’t because he’ll be tucked warmly in his bed. But, by the time he finally gets out of bed and is leisurely enjoying a morning coffee, I bet he gives me a call… just to see how things went.
So Whittamore’s farm will be missed by many. It will be impossible to “fill their shoes”, but the many farms around Ontario that Whittamores helped and inspired will be honoured to welcome their farm friends the best we can. Whittamore’s Farm was “Your farm in the city”. Barrie Hill Farms hopes to be “Your farm not far from the city” and will warmly welcome all of the Whittamore’s former customers who are going to miss them just as l will.