Saskatoon

Deaf gardener builds budding business

A deaf gardener has built a niche business by growing vegetables for a chain of ethnic grocery stores in Saskatoon.

Program sells vegetables to ethnic grocery chain

A deaf gardener has built a niche business by growing vegetables for a chain of ethnic grocery stores in Saskatoon.

This spring, Ashton Hnatuk started growing hard to find produce for the Swadesh Supermarket chain. The Bangladeshi owner of the chain said it was almost impossible to find certain types of fresh vegetables.

Hnatuk set to work, planting seeds that have likely never been grown in the province before.

"Well, it's something new to learn," said Hnatuk through a sign language interpreter. "I want to learn more about their kinds of plants."

The project was started by Hnatuk's job coach, Nairn Gillies. Gillies works with Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, and says he's always on the lookout for employment opportunities.

Gillies says the store owner wants more plants than the current operation can produce.

"When he came here the first time he said, 'Oh no, you've got to grow way more plants. We can buy everything that you can produce,'" he said. "We have a market that we've tapped into, and he's been very supportive of us."

All of the plants in the greenhouse are grown with an 'aquaponics' system that Hnatuk built himself. Water and waste from fish tanks is passed through a complex set of filters to fertilize the plants.

Hnatuk says he wants to become an apprentice plumber, and is applying to SIAST next year.

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