Urban hot pepper farmers use love for spice to give back
A pair of hot pepper enthusiasts are using their passion for heat to try to warm hearts.
When Terry Demczuk got involved in the hot pepper community, he didn’t realize where it would take him.
“Well I got involved by mistake basically. I started growing peppers on a balcony.”
Demczuk started Magma Pepper Seeds several years ago. He would grow the peppers and sell the seeds to fellow hot pepper enthusiasts, which is how he met Kevin Howe.
“And he said, 'I’m in for more than the sales, I’m in it to try and grow the pepper community, and bring people closer together,'” says Howe, an enthusiast himself, which led to an idea to share his love of spicy things.
“I started with a single (Carolina) Reaper plant, had all sorts of pods, didn’t know what to do with them, so I produced a bunch of sauces, and gave them out to my family and friends.”
Then the pandemic hit, and the newly created Blazing Donkey Pepper Company wanted to do something to help the community.
“We thought, could we do something more here?” says Howe. “Is there something we could do to make ourselves feel good keep us occupied and give back to our community.”
In 2020 Blazing Donkey sold 220 bottles of hot sauce with all the profits going to charities that don’t receive large government grants and struggled during the pandemic.
This year they are looking to make 1,000 bottles and to grow the contributions
“This year we’re toying with the idea of creating a self-sustaining bursary, for either a Western student or a Fanshawe student in the name of PTSD and suicide awareness.”
Howe’s efforts have had an effect on Demczuk, who is also helping on the project.
“The reason of the company was to help people during the pandemic. We started last year in 2020, there was a lot of people struggling, and I see that helping people, it helped me,” Demczuk says.
There are plans to expand the number of plants that are grown in the future, as others have come forward to offer space for the surrogate plants to grow.