With a little luck and a lot of scientific know-how, this Labrador farm had a bumper cabbage crop

A farm in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, has grown a record number of cabbages this year and wants to share its findings with other farmers in the province.

Pye Farm has raised as many as 600 cabbage heads this year thanks to the aid of scientific experiments.

Man is standing in a farming field holding a bag of cabbages.
Resident farmer Lem Seaward says the abundance of cabbage in Happy-Valley Goose Bay this year is due to monitoring efforts and experiments on different soils and fighting cabbage-feasting insects. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

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."

Two older people standing in a field holding cabbages.
Cabbages, cabbages and more cabbages! Darla and Lem Seaward work at Pye Center Farm, which is under Memorial University’s Labrador Campus. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

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."

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Arlette Lazarenko is a journalist working in St. John's. She is a graduate of the College of the North Atlantic journalism program. Story tips welcomed by email:

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