Sarah & Her Dad

Sarah Graham and Peter Koning are often reminded of the humble beginnings of their business

Acknowledging they are very blessed that some customers of theirs have been there from the beginning. These customers have been able to watch Sarah, as a 12 year old girl, grow from a corner fruit stand that just sold homegrown sweetcorn to the entrepreneur and mother of four boys she has become today. But if you ask Sarah, her father Peter deserve most of the credit. Peter is a first generation farmer born in the city of Chatham. His wife Annie Planting and he settled in Chatham Township on a farm near the village of Eberts where Sarah and her four siblings were raised.

Where It All Began

Peter farmed commercial contracted pickling cucumbers and field tomatoes along with field corn for their cows and chickens they raised. Tragedy struck in December of 1982 when Sarah’s mother died at the age of 28 from leukemia, leaving behind Peter and their five young children, the youngest being Sarah’s brother Nathan, 6 months old. When the recession of the 1980s hit, Peter was forced to sell a good portion of the family farm and find factory work and odd jobs to provide for his family. Things got so tough Peter was motivated to create a job when there wasn’t any to be found. During a drive home one night passing a roadside stand, Sarah suggested what a great summer job it would be running a fruit stand and that got Peter thinking. The very next day the family got up early and headed to a strawberry patch where they picked as many berries as they could and then drove around campgrounds, with Sarah selling the berries off the back of their pick-up truck.

Sarah’s Corner

Next sweet corn was purchased and Sarah was set up on a busy intersection in Chatham, the corner of McNaughton Avenue and Sandy Street. Sarah spent the next 12 summers selling fresh local fruits and vegetables on this corner. This helped the family pay for living expenses and even for post-secondary school for Sarah. Sarah went on to study at the University of Windsor and acquired a Bachelor of General Science degree. Although Sarah once believed she wanted to pursue a career as a school teacher, she fell in love with the family business and decided she would continue on the farming track. Once graduation came, Sarah also obtained her AZ truck driving license. She and her father put a down payment on a 1998 Kenworth tractor trailer and began hauling produce in the winter months for Veri Trucking out of Exeter, ON. This off season income allowed them to save and eventually purchase farm land on which to grow their produce rather than renting from others. Eventually Sarah’s corner became so popular that the owners of the plaza were getting complaints of the fruit stand congesting the parking lot and therefore did not welcome Sarah back in the spring of 2000.

Today & Our Next Chapter

Today Peter and Sarah own and farm 50 acres of farm land on five separate parcels, all located minutes from the city core of Chatham

In the peak of their season, Sarah’s Farm Markets employs 25 individuals with three of them being offshore seasonal farm labourers. All plug plants are hand planted and everything is hand harvested with care. Peter says, “The days of sweet corn only being available two to three weeks are over.” Sarah’s corn is now available from July to the end of October depending on the first killing frost. Peter and Sarah also grow their own cucumbers, zucchini, dill, yellow and green beans, beets, carrots, onions, kale, radishes, tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, squash, pumpkins, gourds, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Sarah’s Farm Markets’ motto is “Working hard to be your #1 Farm Market!” and both Peter and Sarah are committed to continuing to do so for as long as they can!

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