Peter Streef plans to retire from Streef Produce Ltd. this year. ( Cynthia David )

After 42 years in the produce industry and four bouts with cancer, Peter Streef is selling his shares and retiring from his family’s business at the Ontario Food Terminal.

“Not a lot of people get second chances,” he said. “Once the local asparagus season ends in July, I’m going fishing.” 

Streef said he plans to continue his work as director of the Ontario Asparagus Growers Marketing Board, and he will remain a liaison for the many local suppliers who’ve become friends over the years. 

“A lot of them owe me golf and fishing trips,” he said, “and I’m ready to collect.” 

Streef’s nephew Chris, who has run Streef Produce as general manager for the past three years while his uncle stayed in the background, guarding his health, will carry on the business at the terminal, along with several cousins. 

Streef said he won’t miss the many 12-hour days he spent building his company, but he’s proud of the number of Ontario growers who’ve expanded exponentially by partnering with Streef Produce over the years.

“I’m proud of the team we’ve built to look after Ontario produce,” he said. “Our purpose has always been to bring more local produce to the terminal for distribution and increase production in the province.”

When he bought his unit in November 1988, moving from potato farmer to wholesaler, “it took a while for a farmer to be accepted on the block,” he said. 

“But they’ve been great trading partners and we’re friendly competition, serving foodservice, the wholesale market and independents.” 

Over the years, he’s brought in more perishable items and developed a thriving Mexican program. 

Canada’s new food guide, with its emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, also makes him happy. 

“It’s a good time to retire,” he said.