Silver Creek Nursery is fueled mainly by six humans: Steph Muma (formerly Roth, owner) and Zack Muma (owner-in-training), Wayne Kuntze (resident plant whisperer), and Mouse Paxton (versatile office aficionado and field worker), and as of fall 2022, Amanda and Keziah.
Steph worked seasonally during high school and beyond for her cousin Ken (founder of the nursery). While never anticipating a career in farming or business, here we are! A chef school drop-out with a passion for good, clean food, she never quite found her place and kept reverting to return to the nursery between jobs. When Ken posed the ultimatum in 2018 to sell the business to the competition or have Steph take over, she mulled it over for a while and concluded that while she didn't know what she wanted to do with her life, she knew she wasn't done with Silver Creek Nursery. And here we are, a few crops in, one global pandemic later, and over 100 new cultivars added to the test orchards. She looks forward to bringing more edible perennial plants to the table, and figuring out the seemingly impossible task of growing a crop that must be dug every two years while building soil health and only adding minimal off-farm inputs. Surrounded by a family of tree-enthusiasts, she has been able to incorporate beds 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 and pigs 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, followed by a third test orchard in Gadshill on her Dad's property.
Zack joined forces in 2021, quitting his day job to work full time on the farm. He grew up on a mink farm in Amulree and went to school for mechanical engineering, fostering a healthy level of curiosity. He can fix just about anything (which is good since Steph nor Wayne has much patience for the art), and is devoted to building soil health and adding animals to the nursery practices. His first project here has been to build a tiny house on wheels for employees/extra space. His father instilled a passion for clean building, resulting in the tiny house being built with hempcrete and sheep's wool for insulation, re-used timber and tin from his family farm, clay plaster to finish the insides, and a big window overlooking the orchard, creating a nice little eco-home in a vibrant environment!
Wayne has worked in the garden/greenhouse industry for decades, and brings a wealth of knowledge in this area to the team. He was born, raised, and owns the farm that the nursery operates on, making his commute a breezy 3 minute walk out to the field. He raises chickens for meat and eggs, sells veg seedlings in the spring, looks after his own personal greenhouse full of unique plants from all over the world, and is incredibly hard working. He enjoys his annual trip to Manitoulin Island, where he has introduced some roadside apples to the orchard, by bringing budwood back of some favourite seedlings up there. His can-do attitude, diverse skill set, and years of experience have been an incredible asset to the nursery.
Mouse joined in 2020, filling the gap in the office and customer service area. They fit right in from the beginning: the initial interview lasted close to an hour with discussions filled around plants, growing practices, and chickens. Their experience at the Harrow Research Station allows them to ID just about any insect, and when fielding customer questions about everything from growing fruit trees to recommending cultivars or rootstock, to pruning, and general ordering for a catalogue of over 500 types of plants! They are thorough, organized, and have become invaluable in the office. More recently they are helping Zack set up better record keeping and IPM practices for the test orchards.
Upon discovering their pregnancy with a birth date for mid-April 2023, Steph and Zack set to the task of removing Steph from the nursery front line, in the process hiring some new folks this past fall (just in time for the illustrious event of tree digging - a solid intro to the nursery!) ...
Enter Amanda and Keziah: Amanda has a background in the industry with a certification as a greenhouse technician while Keziah brings work experience from other organic farms and is studying to get certified as a herbalist. Both fit right in here, with their passion for good, clean food and farming practices, and adaptable skill sets. You'll get to know Amanda and Keziah in the office with customer service, as well as see them helping in the nursery, orchards and cold storage.
The humble history of Silver Creek Nursery, from our founder, Ken's, perspective:
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