With a little luck and a lot of scientific know-how, this Labrador farm had a bumper cabbage crop
Pye Farm has raised as many as 600 cabbage heads this year thanks to the aid of scientific experiments.
Labrador's growing season is short and unpredictable, but for the Pye farm in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the stars aligned in 2023 for one of their most successful years of cabbage production.
"We have lots of cabbage that we need to get rid of — to a good home, of course — in someone's stomach," said farm employee Darla Seaward.
This year's count adds up to 600 heads of cabbage, according to resident farmer Led Seaward. Last year, the farm wasn't as abundant due to greedy insects that feasted on the crop, he said. This year, the secret ingredient was science.
With some help from federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada department staff in St. John's, they were able to monitor the crops and be better prepared.
"They conducted experiments with various producers on different varieties of cabbage to determine which grows best in this area. They researched insects, the types of soil to use, and how to encourage the cabbage to grow better in this environment," he said.
The farm — its full name is the Pye Centre for Northern Boreal Food System — stretches over 80 acres in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. It has been owned and run by Memorial University since 2019. According to its website, the farm is dedicated to agricultural growth through "research, learning opportunities, food innovation, and community connections."
The farm implemented a monitoring program to determine when insects are more likely to attack, accounting for not only one type of insect, but several that come at different times for their meals.
The abundance of cabbage is remarkable, considering the many challenges that come with growing it in that area, said Lem Seaward.
"The weather is so unpredictable throughout the whole province, and the world, really," he said, pointing to climate change as a factor. "Earlier this year, we hardly had any rain and lots of heat that caused many people to lose their cabbage."
Through the monitoring process they established, it became easier to protect the plants, he said, and they hope to share as much information and resources with other farmers, from commercial experts with miles of land to backyard hobbyists.
"We are seeing more young people interested in agriculture and how tasty the food is when you grow your own with good soil. So when we see someone who's really interested, we really want to give as much information as we can to help them."