Couple breaks new ground with fresh approach to farming

Leah Murphy and Ryan Slyzuk started Taproots Green Gardens three years ago on land they lease at 1963 Michigan Line. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

The owners of a booming market farm business in Sarnia say demand is growing rapidly for their all-natural approach to producing vegetables.

Ryan Slyzuk and Leah Murphy say they operate the only Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) project of its kind in the area.

“We don’t believe in spraying chemicals and we harvest everything within 48 hours of sale,” said Slyzuk, 31.

“I am passionate about this. It’s not like work for me,” he said.  “I’m out in the field every night ‘til sundown.”

Slyzuk and Murphy started Taproots Green Gardens three years ago on land they lease at 1963 Michigan Line.

The first season, they planted about 40 varieties of vegetables and greens on a quarter acre.

Central to the business model is a roster of CSA customers who receive a box filled with fresh produce weekly from June to October.

For $500 upfront each customer receives chemical-free produce for 20 weeks.

The first year, Slyzuk focused on introducing the concept to Sarnians at farmers’ markets in Bright’s Grove and Point Edward.

“I spent a lot of time telling our story, bringing people to the garden so they could get to know us and see how we garden.

“I want our customers to see our passion for it,” he said. “I think people really respond to that.”

Last year, Taproots expanded to half an acre and signed on 20 CSA veggie box customers. This year, almost a full acre is under cultivation and Slyzuk had to cut off CSA customers at 40.

“The demand is much more than our supply,” he said.  “I needed to cap our veggie box numbers so we can ensure our CSA customers are happy.”

Because COVID-19 has closed some farmers’ markets, Taproots launched an online store this month to sell what it would have taken to market.

A new list of available produce is posted each week, and orders are placed and paid for online. No-contact pickup takes place from the farm.

Introducing a new agricultural concept in Sarnia has been a process for Slyzuk and Murphy. He grew up in Windsor and met Murphy, a Sarnia native, while she was attending school there.

After studying journalism, he backpacked overseas and wound up working on farms in Australia.

“I didn’t know anything about agriculture before that,” he said. “But I was inspired by the farmers I met. I’ve always had a concern for climate change and here was something tangible I could do about it and feel I’m making a difference.”

He spent a season planting trees in British Columbia and worked for three years on Vancouver Island for various organic farmers.

When he returned to Ontario, the couple spent time working on two market gardens in central Ontario before finding some affordable land to lease in Sarnia.

Murphy continues to work full-time as a vet tech while Slyzuk relies entirely on Taproots for income.

“Each year we get better and each year we’ve doubled our sales,” he said.  “Our five-year plan is to have 80 to 100 CSA members.”

To learn more about Taproots Green Gardens, visit www.taprootsgreengardens.com or call 519-980-5120.

Taproots is located at 1963 Michigan Line, east of Blackwell Sideroad.