Whittamore's Farm News Release Q & A
What is the announcement you are making today?
- We are announcing that 2017 will be an important season for all of our customers who visit Whittamore’s Farm. The Whittamore Family will offer their customers one final season to enjoy the family farm experience before closing its gates and all farm activities to the public in November 2017. It will be an exciting, fully operational season and our offerings will remain the same for the families, schools and other customers who visit us. This will be the last season we offer this experience to our customers.
Why are you making this change?
- We have been offering this experience to families in Markham and across the GTA for over 60 years. We are making the change to re-balance our lives and pursue other interest and opportunities.
Are you selling your property to a land developer?
- No. The land will continued to be farmed, however the Farm Shop, Fun Farm Yard, Pick-Your-Own and Pumpkinland facilities will no longer be operational as of November 2017. It’s important to understand that the farm is situated in the Greenbelt, surrounded by and in the Rouge National Urban Park.
Are you retiring? If so, when?
- Our announcement is not about retiring – it is purely about celebrating our last public season of Whittamore’s Farm with our customers. We want to give our customers advance notice so that they can visit us in 2017. The land will continue to be farmed, just in a different capacity.
What happens to your employees?
- The 2017 season is business as usual and we will be hiring for both Whittamore’s Farm Shop and Pick-Your-Own. We’ve had multiple generations of workers and we are very grateful for the excellent people we have been able to attract over the years to help operate and grow our business. We want to express our appreciation for their commitment to Whittamore’s Farm.
Do you have any full time employees who will be losing their job after this season?
- We have a very small number of full-time staff, some of whom have been with us for many years. We are grateful for their tremendous commitment. As we make changes to our business we are re-evaluating our human resource needs.
You have farmed the land for generations - don’t you want to turn the business over to your children?
- Our children have been fortunate to work on the farm from the time they were young and we believe it has taught them a great sense of responsibility and respect for operating a business and the land we farm. Having said this, we also encouraged all of our kids to get a good education and find their own dreams. And that is exactly what they are doing. So, at least at this stage, there is no one in the next generation that is ready to take on this part of the business.
When is this announcement effective?
- We expect this season to be our best ever. The season will kick off on Wednesday May 3, 2017. We will be fully operational and look forward to welcoming back all of the families, school tours and customers who have been so loyal to Whittamore’s over the years. We will close to the public after Halloween on Wednesday, November 1, 2017.
What about Judy’s Tropical Garden that is adjacent to you?
- Judy's Tropical Garden operates on the other side of the farm in August and September. That business will be unaffected.
How long has the Whittamore Farm been in operation?
- The Whittamore family has been an important contributor to the community of Markham since the farm was first established in 1804. Henry Lapp and his heirs pioneered the land throughout the 19th century.
- From the early 1920s to the 1950s, Frank J. Whittamore established a small farm on Bathurst Street in Richmond Hill. He sold vegetables door to door in Toronto. In 1952, Frank's son Gilbert bought a 50 acre farm on Steeles Avenue East in Markham and he grew strawberries and vegetables to be wholesaled at the Toronto Food Terminal as well as local retail markets.
- Evelyn Lapp married Gilbert Whittamore and they established a small pick-your-own strawberry and raspberry operation in the mid 50's. Over the next 60 years the farm expanded in its variety of crops and offerings and today Mike, Frank and his wife Suzanne Whittamore operate one of the largest pick-your-own, farm shop and agritainment farms in Ontario. This 330 acre farm welcomes close to 300,000 customers annually.