Q&A with Chudleigh’s farm manager
Chudleigh’s Farm Manager
Bachelor of Science in Agriculture 2017
During his time at the University of Guelph (U of G), Riley was a busy student. He played 4 years of rugby, while also being on the Dean’s Honours list (academic average of 80% or above). In his senior undergrad years he conducted research trials on the growth of Lupin, a yellow legume, in Ontario. Today, Riley is the farm manager at Chudleigh’s in Milton and we recently chatted with him about his new role.
Tell us about Chudleigh’s
Chudleigh’s is a family farm that set the standard for the modern pick your own orchard that is so famous on social media today. They started doing it in 1967. They also started making their baked goods in the house before moving to the barn for more space. Now we do our baking in a modern 110,000 square foot bakery five minutes down the road from the family farm. There are over 200 dedicated full time employees making desserts for customers across North America. Most of all, each fall season they are popular enough to shut down the county road.
How did you hear about the farm manager position at Chudleigh’s and what made you interested in it?
I actually heard about it after I applied for a different job at Chudleigh’s in product development. Product development appealed to me because of my interest in pulse crop research with regards to plant-based protein sources. They called me back and said I may be better suited for the orchard job due to my experience in plant science and in helping manage our family farm.
What are some of your main responsibilities at Chudleigh’s?
At Chudleigh’s I do a variety of tasks. Some of my main responsibilities include maintaining the overall look of the orchard and helping to provide the best product for the public when they come to visit. This involves lots of pruning on cold winter days. I also grow the apples that are used in Chudleigh’s baked goods and help to grow new varieties that may be in the grocery store 10 years from now. Another part of growing is using integrated pest management to deliver a superior product that all our visitors from the Greater Toronto Area have come to know us by.
How long have you been involved in the agriculture industry?
I have been involved in my family farm from a very young age. My dad, brothers and I manage a 2,000acre grain farm. I probably started stacking hay bales when I was nine, but took a more active role in our family farms decisions when I was 19 and had finished my first year at U of G.
What’s a challenge you’ve faced stepping in to the role of farm manager?
The biggest challenge will be to learn over 150 years of Chudleigh farm history and knowledge from Bruce Shannon and Tom Chudleigh. Bruce started working at Chudleigh’s when he was 12, and he is now 67 and retiring. Tom is 79 and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. They have been working together since the 60’s and have grown this business in to what it is today. Another large challenge is learning about how a new species grows and all its weaknesses that come along with its growth. The cold mornings in February are also very challenging.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Because I just started in January of this year, I haven’t gotten to experience it yet, but I imagine the upwards of 10,000 people coming into the farm on Thanksgiving Monday to grab a few apples and pies with their family will feel very rewarding. After working hard all year to grow a good product on the trees, seeing people come to enjoy it will make it all worth while.
How do you think your experience at U of G prepared you for this role?
The Bachelor of Science in Agriculture program prepared me for this as it provided the freedom to choose my specialty and take the respective courses to get there. This meant I was well rounded in animal sciences as well as plant sciences. I can use similar practices and strategies for growing even though the final product I grow is very different from a grain crop. I feel that my degree provided me with the capabilities to transfer my knowledge to other applications.
How do you feel your research experience at U of G helped prepare you for your career?
Chudleigh’s is home to many trials for OMAFRA and I can use my research experience to assist with those. I would also like to thank the late Alireza Navabi who recently passed as he was the one who first said yes to my idea of lupin research at the university and was nothing but helpful and kind. Lupin is now in many products including President’s Choice blue menu waffle mix, and in the future; hummus, protein bars and anything else you can think of. The growing process for lupins is now being moved into North America, in part to my successful plots on our home farm in Erin (one of North America’s only growers).
What is your favourite Chudleigh’s product?
They are all so good but their hard cider is the best and the classic apple pie has to be my favorite baked good. Also, the Creston apple! It’s like a honeycrisp but tastes even better. You can most likely only buy them at the farm in Milton.