Martin and Alison Hughes are like many couples. You have the more gregarious, out front person and then the more reserved, feet on the ground, firmly in the background partner. These two fit that description to a T. Martin is the spokesperson, Alison is the idea person who keeps Martin happily grounded.
In work, play, and family these two have a great blend, that helps them keep a very busy schedule and new business blossoming, so to speak. They both have full-time jobs, two kids at home, and a new business they have been establishing over the past few years.
Martin was born and raised in Wales, in a town commonly referred to as Mold, (after Mold Castle, established somewhere around 1072), because the real name in Welsh is “Yr Wyddgrug.” The history of the area Martin grew up in had great characters, fierce battles, and even the actual War of the Roses, so it completely makes sense he is a character in his own right.
A semi-pro rugby player in his earlier years makes absolute sense now, with his unabashed devotion to the Welsh team, and his competitive spirit.
On a journey through the UK Alison took, these two met, and a time later Martin sold his house, was done with his job at the Royal Bank of Scotland, and moved lock, stock and barrel to start a life with Alison in Smithers.
“I’m all in, or in other words, go big or go home!” he said with a brilliant laugh.
With that in mind, they married, started a family and started their own “little garden” so the kids could have clean food, fruit, and vegetables.
Alison has a gardening background so the idea of gardening with no pesticides was the idea from the start.
With Alison’s wish for clean food, and their collective passion they started a “little garden that “grew,” to say the least!
“Well, it started out to be just for us, but it’s not that way now,” he said with a huge grin. It is almost comical, except the garden is so lush and huge!
Now, with 150-200 Haskap plants, 10,000 Rasberry canes in the ground, and at least 4,000 Strawberry plants, their future plans include tomato plants, and with a 16 x 50 ft greenhouse on the way and plans for two more, “starting out with a couple of plants,” would be the understatement of the year.
Martin declares he will keep out of the tomatoes though, as that project is “Alison’s baby to run with, I’m not allowed.”
“First, we have to make the beds ready, which is huge as our ground is awful.”
“We will use something called Hugelkultur, which are no-dig, raised beds with a difference.”
They hold moisture, he explained, build fertility, maximize surface volume, and are great spaces for growing fruit, vegetables, and herbs.
“It is a horticultural technique where a mound is constructed from layers of decaying wood debris and other compostable plant materials like straw and grass clippings, and are later planted as a raised beds,” Martin explained.
Alison and Martin spend hours upon hours researching the best techniques and this seems to have worked famously for the rest of the farm, along with a lot of perseverance and patience.
In the beginning for the farm, they brought truckloads of topsoil, dug trenches out of the rocky features and filled it one wheelbarrow at a time, and finally planted strawberries. That was in the summer of 2017, and looking at it now you would never believe it is that relatively new.
During 2017 and 2018, Martin had a war with the crows. He bought plastic owls, he threw rocks, did just about everything you can think of or look up on the internet, and then Alison happened across an ingenious idea. Before the strawberry plants bloom, paint pebbles from the river red and disperse them throughout the middle of the rows. The crows peck away at those for a while, to no avail. By the time the strawberries were red, they didn’t bother with them.
“Instead, they go through the rows and take out the weeds, slugs, and everything other than strawberries. It’s brilliant,” Martin declared.
They say that last year there were no issues with the crows at all.
Little by little, their vision is to continue to increase the farm, pull back from their full-time jobs and retire there.
“Every year adding something new, not animals though, something we don’t have to winter, so we can slip away to warmer climes when the kids are grown,” Martin said. “We can come back, base here, have the farm in the beautiful part of the summer, and retire.”
For now, they are content, as last year they produced approximately 1,000 pounds of strawberries, 170 pounds of raspberries (and they were in their first immature year), and all of the rain last year actually helped the crops. The rain saved their backs too because they water by hand.
“It’s actually peace and quiet for an hour at night with a hose, watering and spending time with the family together,” Martin said.
The name of the farm is a true family effort as well, as they would sit together thinking of names with “berry” in them and Martin was trying to draw logos of a berry with a smile, it was actually the kids who had the idea of a “giggling berry,” and a name was born.
This year, they look forward to the fruit being plentiful, the new greenhouse being installed and boxes built to be ready for tomato plants to come, and that customers will once again seek them out for the clean food the original garden was set out for.
It is a lot of work, but these two look right at home out yonder “minding” their considerable “little garden” called Giggleberry Farm.