Achieving 30 successful years in business is no small accomplishment. Even more so, is the dedication and love this incredibly giving family has, not only for each other, but for the customers they serve.
Their business story actually begins back in 1975, and their family story starts way before that. “My father and mother worked in a grocery store together, and that’s where they met. My father was the produce manager, and they decided that once married, to open their own small business called Tullamore Market.” The patriarch, Nick Iuglio, and his lovely wife Tish, also bought a farm and began to grow produce, all to be sold at Tullamore.
Their daughter Margaret explains; “Rock Garden was growing for Tullamore, and my mother decided one year to set up a little stand at the end of our driveway, to put out the corn that while perfectly good, was not quite “perfect” for the store necessarily, but came with slight imperfections. My mother sold them for $1 a dozen, and the little stand became a hit!” The small stand idea was so popular that the next year, her father set up a wagon just off the road, and Tish began offering additional items for sale, including more varieties of vegetables and fresh baked pies. Tullamore was also selling fresh flowers at the time, and Tish would decorate the wagon with some of the flowers that Nick would bring down. Before they knew it, people were purchasing the flowers right off the wagon, and in 1988, Rock Garden Farms officially began to take shape!
In 1988, the family began transforming the old barns into what is now known today as their “marketplace”. Slowly, and with purpose, Rock Garden Farms began to grow and evolve, and so in 1995 when Tullamore’s lease was up, the family decided to close the market, and focus their full attention on maintaining and developing Rock Garden Farms.
Through the years, Rock Garden Farms has become well known for their incredible selection of flowers and plants, greenhouse fruits and vegetables, as well as their baked goods and frozen foods …… just to name a few.
The best way to experience this incredible business is to visit them. We had the great pleasure of doing just that, and let me tell you, it’s an amazing experience for all your senses! Margaret explains, “The store has been purposefully displayed so that our clients can easily see it all. We organize the store so that it makes sense from a shopping perspective, but also so that it looks visually appealing.” And true enough, when you walk into their space you literally feel like you are inside a piece of artwork, with all the colours and smells that you just wouldn’t experience anywhere else. “My staff work tirelessly to ensure the store and all the different marketplaces look and feel pleasing, so the customer enjoys their experience, and only sees the best of what we have to offer. My father and husband begin their day at 1:30 AM, for their daily trip to the Ontario Food Terminal. They bring back the products for the day, and then we all begin unpacking and restocking our products. We take down and refresh about 75% of our shelves, which ensures that only the best of the best is delivered to our customers.” As a customer, just look, smell, and taste, and you’ll understand how committed this family is to delivering fresh, local, Ontario grown food to your table, each and every day. “We want only the best for our customers; we would never serve anything to them which we would not also serve to our own family.”
Rock Garden Farms has evolved and grown as a business, and as a family. There are currently 3 generations working the farm and marketplace, and Margaret explains best how they feel about sharing their family with yours. “We feel so blessed as a family, to be able to provide quality products to you and your family. It really is an honour for all of us. This community has been so good to us over the years, and just having them at the farm, purchasing our products, is a real honour.”
This is why you will always see the family there. Margaret goes on, “I want to be there, greeting our customers and welcoming everyone to our family, to let them know they are part of the Rock Garden Farm family dynamic”. So it is no surprise that you will also see Tish and Nick (mom and dad), still very present at the business, and still working just as hard. “Mom runs the bakery department, and oversees products like sauces, frozen lasagnas, meat balls, and of course, the tomato sauce.” All homemade, with nothing but quality products, and of course…love.
Rock Garden Farms opens this year on April 1st, and stays open through to November. The spring season begins with fresh-cut flowers (that are like no other), tulips, hydrangeas, small hanging baskets, and a well-stocked greenhouse that customers can walk through to begin planning their summer gardens.
Mother’s Day is extraordinary at the farm. This is when the farm comes to life with colour. Margaret describes it best when she calls it a “Feast of Flowers”, where customers enjoy gorgeous colours and scents that make spring come alive! In late spring, the early produce like garlic scapes, fiddleheads, and asparagus become available, and of course the meats, frozen foods, baked goods, and other delicious products are always on hand.
Rock Garden Farms also has a very popular “strawberry season”, when customers can come and pick their own. The season begins around the 20th of June, where you will find other berries available such as raspberries, blackberries, and of course blueberries; all of summer’s favourite picks. And while June signals the berry season at the farm, it’s not long after that the “Ontario Harvest Season” kicks into gear, and the marketplace is jam-packed with all the incredible fruits and vegetables our amazing province has to offer. “We only sell local produce”, says Margaret. “We’ve done so since the very beginning, and that’s where our customers will ‘taste the difference’. Freshly purchased every day from farms across our province, we are proud to sell and support our farming communities.”
For those of you who have been patiently waiting for the farm to open for the season, you’ve more than likely been for a visit a few times now. For those of you who have not been, it is a lovely drive along Airport Road, and I can guarantee you, it’s a trip worth making. The feeling and atmosphere is such a nice change from the big box grocery stores; you can slow down and really enjoy the experience.
The “farm-fresh experience”, from start to finish, is what it’s all about, and it means everything for this hardworking family celebrating 30 years in the business.
Written By: Kelli M. Maddocks