Dream job: Iranian farmer growing successful business in P.E.I. red soil
BROOKFIELD, P.E.I. —
Many Islanders have been enjoying the fruits of Iranian native Aman Sedighi’s labour.
His vegetables and herbs are very well received, too.
The 61-year-old Stratford resident has turned his strong agricultural knowledge into a successful business.
Sedighi came to P.E.I. in late 2010 with his family through the Provincial Nominee Program, leaving behind a career as an agricultural researcher with the government of Iran and bringing his business of exporting pistachios to England to a halt.
He was determined to find work in his beloved field of agriculture in a country that would free his wife Azam and the couple’s daughter, Farnaz, from Iran’s severe restriction of women’s rights.
Sedighi beams at the good fortune of his 18-year-old daughter, who is in the nursing program at UPEI, and his son, Sina, 28, who is studying medicine at Dalhousie University.
He is quite pleased too with his own progress since setting foot on – and plowing into – red Island soil.
First, he worked 18 months on a dairy farm, with milking and feeding cows among other farm duties.
Along the way, Sedighi started growing vegetables on a small parcel of land. He took some of his herbs to Papa Joe’s restaurant in Charlottetown, where he says executive chef Irwin MacKinnon raved about the quality and freshness of his product.
Sedighi decided at that moment he wanted to grow fruits and vegetables for a living and a lifestyle.
“I found my way,’’ he says.
“I found my job…It was my dream.’’
Mounir Alkernazi inspects the lettuce in the A-OK Gardens in Brookfield. Alkenazi and his wife Nisrine started working on the farm one year after moving to P.E.I. from Syria in 2015. - Jim Day
“We are enjoying the work here – difficult work. We know this job.’’
He searched across Prince Edward Island for a prime place to grow. He found a good spot in Brookfield.
In February 2014, he bought 14.5 acres of land, purchased a small tractor and got to work.
Sedighi started by planting herbs and 100 apple trees. He gradually added fruits and vegetables.
His business, called A-OK Gardens, has grown 500 perc ent over the first five-plus years.
Today, he grows a dizzying variety of products on 20 acres, including three kinds of zucchini, cucumber, water melons, fava beans, mint, eggplant, cabbage, red onions, beets, carrots, parsley, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, three kinds of peppers, oregano, garlic, leeks, chives, snow peas, kale, beans, strawberries, tomato and asparagus.
Sedighi says he speaks to his plants every day. He stops, then corrects himself. It is the plants, he says, that tell him what they need.
“They need many, many things,’’ he says.
Sedighi appears to listen well.
“We’re very fortunate to have such a great farmer on our team…he grows a tremendous product,’’ says Mike Buchanan, assistant manager of Harvest Wholesale.
“He takes pride in his work.’’
Most of Sedighi’s product is purchased by Harvest Wholesale, but he also continues to sell his food to Papa Joes, which helped set his farm business in motion.
His business employs five people, including two people from Syria, making him proud to be able to help fellow immigrants.
Syrians Mounir and Nisrine Alkernazi moved to P.E.I. with their son, Fajr, four years ago and live in Charlottetown. The couple has been working full-time for Sedighi for the past three years.
“We are enjoying the work here – difficult work,’’ says Mounir, who owned a fruit farm in Syria and hopes to one day own a fruit and vegetable farm on P.E.I.
“We know this job.’’
Sedighi hopes many will benefit from his diverse farm. He wants to show by example that much can be grown on Prince Edward Island.
“The Island – this soil – has the capacity to produce many, many things we import from the mainland,’’ he says.
“We can produce here many things we need.’’