Iranian immigrant makes new life as a P.E.I. farmer

Aman Sedighi, an Iranian immigrant is operating a successful mixed farm in P.E.I. which grows vegetables, fruits and herbs.

'It's like heaven for me'

Aman Sedighi shows off a watermelon from his farm. He estimates some weigh up to 30 pounds. 'I'm so surprised, this is the first time, I produce the watermelon on P.E.I.' (Laura Meader/CBC)

Aman Sedighi is proud of his organic farm in Brookfield P.E.I. — his fields are filled with everything from lush green herbs, to enormous watermelons, to dozens of varieties of colourful fruits and vegetables. 

"My business has grown 100 per cent each year," Sedighi said. 

Aman Sedighi with eggplants he just harvested from his field. (Laura Meader/CBC)

When the Iranian immigrant arrived in P.E.I. in 2010, he started working on a dairy farm. He began farming on his own in 2014 and now has two different farms, about 43 hectares (107 acres) of land in total, and employs five people. 

His business name is A-OK Gardens, which stands for Aman Organic Kitchen Gardens.

He says sometimes as little as three hours passes between when the crop is cut and when it is served. 

"There's no pollution, no chemicals, and no spray on them. They are fresh, fresher than you think," Sedighi said. 

'I love my job'

Although Sedighi was not a farmer in Iran, he did work as an agricultural researcher there and he's been able to apply that knowledge to his work in the fields here. 

"I love my job," he said.

Sedighi grows a wide variety of organic produce which is used mainly in restaurants. (Laura Meader/CBC)

He works long hours, sunrise to sunset, but says it doesn't bother him. 

"I don't feel tired, trust me." 

He says he wanted to come to Canada to give his family a safe place to live. It was a place he'd thought of since he was a child.

"Canada is a secure country," he said.

A field of green onions, on his test farm. Sedighi grows dozens of herbs such as cilantro, dill, and mint as well. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Sedighi lives here with his wife, an adult son and his 17-year-old daughter.

He marvels at P.E.I. and the capacity of the Island soil.

"It's amazing — it's a special place and it can produce a lot of things," he said. "It's like heaven for me."

He sells his produce to restaurants and a local wholesaler who also distributes his products.

Belief in organic 

Sedighi's farm is right beside a major highway. He points to the regular stream of cars passing by his field.

"Look at that road, hundreds of cars pass from this road daily," he said. 

He says it's a reminder to him of that source of pollution, how the climate is changing and the role farmers can play.

"If we want to reduce the carbon dioxide, the farming and the farmers can do that, " he said. 

Sedighi says this was a test year for the watermelons but he will grow more next year. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Sedighi explained how his plants' leaves help with absorbing carbon dioxide and how buying local helps reduce emissions from transportation. 

"I think as humans we have to clean the environment for the next generation," said Sedighi. 

'In awe of what he's done'

Papa Joe's Restaurant in Charlottetown was one of the first businesses to buy Sedighi's produce.

Joanne Jabbour, co-owner of Papa Joe's, still remembers when he came in to talk to the owners about five years ago.

"I can still see him walking through the door, he had a little Rubbermaid bin and it was filled with some of his vegetables he had grown," said Jabbour. 

She said at first they thought he was just peddling a few things he had grown in a garden and they didn't realize how serious he was about his business. 

Aman Sedighi, left, with two of his employees, Mohamad Alhasan, centre, Mounir Alkernazi, right, who are both from Syria. 'They work hard — harder than you think.' (Laura Meader/CBC)

"In hindsight we know he was developing a concept," she said. 

They are still buying his vegetables and herbs and can't wait to see what he brings during his weekly visits.

"They're beautiful. You are in awe of what he's done," she said. "He has pride in his product."

Sedighi even takes specific requests from the chef at Papa Joe's for certain types or sizes of vegetables. 

Bright future

Sedighi is optimistic about the future and hopes to expand his farm further, to grow even more types of produce and employ more people. 

He also hopes to raise awareness about successful immigration stories and businesses that are making a difference in P.E.I. 

"I think government can encourage us and help us." 

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