If you buy garden plants at any Loblaws or Home Depot store in the Maritimes, those plants were grown on a seven-acre farm in Brookfield, Nova Scotia. Forest Glen Greenhouses, run by Judy Thompson with her daughter Megan and son-in-law Jason Whidden, is the sole supplier for 70-plus Loblaws (Atlantic Superstore, No Frills, and Your Independent Grocer) and 8 Home Depot stores in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The farm produces all their annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables for sale in spring; mums and other plants for fall; and poinsettias for Christmas.
Judy Thompson with her son-in-law Jason Whidden and daughter Megan
When Judy and her husband, Lee Thompson, started the farm in 1985, neither had a farming background. Judy went to the Agricultural College in Truro because it was close to home.
“I discovered I had a real passion for flowers and gardening,” she says. “And my husband had always wanted a greenhouse. We never dreamed it would become what it is today. We both had off-farm jobs, but we just got into it and loved it.” Although Lee has retired, Judy is still very much hands on.
“We were young and ambitious, but the Farm Loan Board encouraged us to go slowly so we didn’t get in over our heads. For several years we’d periodically put up more cold frames and hoop houses,” she says. “It was labour intensive, but those early inefficiencies taught us how to grow in less-than-ideal situations and made us better growers. We produced a better product.”
The Truro SaveEasy was their first customer. Gradually, they got more Loblaws business as the grocery chain developed its lawn and garden sector. “When they asked us to do it all for the three provinces, we knew we had to look at how we were operating,” Judy says. “We borrowed from the Farm Loan Board to put up a gutter-connect greenhouse. It was an acre and a half under one roof with concrete floors. We could push racks, and our efficiencies went through the roof.”
In 2020, their Farm Loan Board advisor alerted Judy to a $300,000 grant opportunity through the federal Agriculture Business Advancer program.
“That was the year we took on Home Depot,” she says. “We had to expand. When we borrowed from the Farm Loan Board again, they suggested this opportunity. It was a godsend. We built a new 35,000 square foot greenhouse, and that’s where we grow our Home Depot product. I have nothing but good things to say about the Farm Loan Board and all the people I’ve worked with there.”
Besides supplying local plants to retailers throughout the Maritimes, Forest Glen Greenhouses supports the economy across Atlantic Canada. “When we need additional labour in the spring, we bring it in from Newfoundland,” she says. “We’ve done that for 15 years. Everything else is local. We also support many small trades in our area for maintenance and repairs. Whatever we can do locally, we do.”
Judy and Lee have three grandsons, aged 9, 5 and 3. “I’m proud that we took seven acres of treed property in 1984,” she says, “and turned it into a seven-acre operation that I’m very proud to leave to my grandsons someday.”