Steph Roth took over the nursery from her cousin Ken in 2020, after working for several seasons with him. In the summer of 2018, Ken decided to sell the business, and as the cycle of growing fruit trees is two seasons long, pursue his endeavors as a master electrician in Beaver Valley after selling his final crop in 2020.
In the meantime Steph has fluently carried on the production, planting her first crop in 2019, and will harvest her first crop of trees in fall of 2020. Continuing Ken's vision of holistically grown fruit trees, and adding various permaculture plants along the way, Steph plans to carry the business on in this vein.
Surrounded by a family of tree-enthusiasts, she has been able to incorporate stoolbeds for rootstock propagation headed by her Dad, grow nut trees and dabble in seedling trees and other plants (also thanks to her Dad), add chickens into the crop rotation mix from her partner Zack, and plant a second test orchard filled with a plethora of perennial edible plants on Zack's home farm in Amulree.
Ken has built the nursery on a solid foundation, and this is his story, from the humble beginning:
Ken has always liked trees for as long as he can remember. When Ken learned how to graft fruit trees as a teenager, his focus on fruit trees turned into an obsession. He started Silver Creek Nursery partly because he saw value in many overlooked and uncommon tree fruit varieties and wanted to make them more readily available to anyone else who wants to grow them. And he started the nursery partly as a means of justifying and financing his growing collection of varieties!
Ken began selling trees out of this building in 2009
Talking to other growers and reading up on the available literature about growing nursery stock, at first Ken followed the conventional advice pertaining to this branch of horticulture. He planned out an Integrated Pest Management program tailored to his crops, and bought the necessary chemicals to put his plan into action: broad spectrum insecticides, fungicides, an antibiotic spray, and round-up. He coaxed the trees along with embarrassingly high amounts of synthetic urea fertilizer.
Thankfully, it did not take long for Ken to have a shift in thinking, realizing that the use of chemicals was unnecessary. He began to see a much bigger picture of balance in nature between pest populations, their hosts, and their predators. A bigger picture which involved beneficial and symbiotic interconnections between all forms of life in the nursery and orchard, from bacteria and fungi all the way up to birds, coyotes, and himself. After many years of searching and trial-and-error, Ken settled on a holistic management system modeled after Michael Phillips' system described in his book, The Holistic Orchard.
The results have surpassed Ken's initial expectations. Of particular surprise is the ability of the sweet cherry nursery stock to withstand the onslaught of the Cherry Leaf Spot fungus. This fungus is present in nurseries and orchards everywhere, and the leaves become so infected that they drop as early as midsummer. This results in stunted growth, which is never good for growing nursery stock. Repeated fungicide applications are conventionally recommended to stave off the infection and delay leaf drop a little longer. Afraid to give up the security of his fungicide, for two years Ken grew only a small test row of sweet cherry nursery stock using the Michael Phillips holistic approach. The results were amazing, with these chemical-free trees vastly out-performing the conventionally-grown trees. They are taller, healthier, and although they still get Cherry Leaf Spot, the infections are not bad enough to cause many leaves to drop before their normal time in the fall!
Holistically-managed sweet cherry nursery stock still with leaves late in the season
Since then, Ken fully committed to organic and sustainable practices. He has become more conscious of what he eats as well. Having tasted so many fruits, and apples in particular, he believes that trees grown in a holistically-managed organic orchard are more nutrient dense-- and you can tell by the taste. There is a considerable difference in taste between conventionally-grown fruit sold in the grocery store (which is also picked before it is truly ripe), and home-grown organic fruit off of your own tree. It is Ken's wish that such high quality organic fruit such as you can grow at home would be available to everyone. This is his idea of ultimate luxury!
We are so thrilled to be able to provide you with quality trees, grown right here in Wellesley ON, grown with love and hard working hands, helping mother nature make fruit trees out of sunshine and sticks!
Steph, Zack and Edgar