52100 College Line, Aylmer, ON
HOPE stands for Healthy Organic Produce Enterprises, and represents a brilliant form of cooperative organizing for sustainable growing. Upwards of 30 small scale organic farms in the Aylmer Amish community work together to grow and market their produce under one common brand through one collectively owned and operated warehouse. By working together, the community is able to grow a substantial amount of organic vegetables, even supplying some larger organic distributors. Each winter, they'll collectively decide on what to grow, to ensure that enough variety is grown and that there isn't an over abundance of any one vegetable.
The beating heart of any of any produce warehouse is its walk-in cooler. Without refrigeration, the greens and veggies we love quickly spoil. As such, the beating heart of any produce warehouse is its walk-in cooler. HOPE's cooler is a technological marvel for both its sustainability and simplicity. At the centre of the cold room is a 2 story tower of ice made of carefully cut blocks from the purpose - built adjacent pond. One small diesel generator powers the industrial fans that draw the cool air from the ice room and propel it through the various chambers of the cooler, keep HOPEs wonderful kale, peppers and other greens at just the right temperature. By the time October rolls around, there isn't much left of the ice, but that's OK, because winter is just around the corner ready to make some more.
It really is a sight to see, horsedrawn wagon loads of beautiful organic produce fresh from the fields roll into the warehouse, get graded, cooled, and packed onto pallets for distribution out onto all the waiting trucks including ours. When things work well, it's a one stop shop for incredible quality and value organic produce. When things don't work so well, we find ourselves trucking on down the lane to find the growers' farm to get it direct!