Visit Richters for All Herbal Needs

By Harvey Currell

Since 1990, herbs for health, cooking and decorating have become big business. Canadian growers are estimated to sell up to $200 million worth of herbs a year.

A 10 ON THE RICHTER SCALE...
Waltraut Richter (second from left) with some of her staff.
Many Ontario herb enthusiasts believe the herb capital of the province is the picturesque hamlet of Goodwood, about 70 km northeast of Toronto.

Goodwood looms large on the herbal map because it’s the home of a farm known simply as Richters.

Otto and Waltraut Richter, post-war immigrants from Germany, gave up their flower nursery business at Locust Hill, moved to Goodwood in 1969, bought 10 acres and started to concentrate on doing what they really loved--growing herbs.

Now the Richters raise 800 varieties of herbs in six greenhouses, have a big greenhouse gift shop and lecture theatre, sponsor free lectures and herbal events all year and send out more than 200,000 mail-order catalogues.

While the bulk of the Richter business is mail order, they welcome everybody to their retail shop and lecture hall. Both are in a big greenhouse. It offers a wide variety of herb-related gifts, teas, drinks, pottery, window boxes and tools.

I was interested in living rosemary trees. Grown in big pots, they’re pointy-shaped, like Christmas trees, and topped with red bows. You can decorate one for Christmas and keep it growing for months while snipping off bits of rosemary to flavour soups, gravies and roasts.

The Richters worked hand in hand to build their business until Otto, who had been a horticulturist for Metro Toronto Parks, died in 1991. His wife has continued as president of Richters, with son Conrad as executive vice-president.

You may meet Mrs. Richter as you browse through the shop and greenhouses. She’ll likely offer you a cup of her herbal tea.

Also usually on hand as a greeter is Cathy Avery, supervisor of retail sales. She’s an herb enthusiast who came to Richters as a customer and soon joined the full-time staff.

You’ll get an herbal education just walking through the huge main greenhouse, where growing herbs are arranged for sale alphabetically, like books in a library, with explanatory placards for each variety.

You can pick up a free copy of the Richters catalogue and put your name on a list to get next year’s book when it comes out Jan. 1. It lists ongoing events, as well as a huge variety of available herbs.

For info, call 905-640-6677, or visit www.richters.com.


Originally published in The Toronto Sun, November 24, 1999.
 
Copyright © 1997-2014 Otto Richter and Sons Limited. All rights reserved.