During the next several months, stories highlighting the significant economic impacts, innovative projects, and leadership of Greenbelt Fund grantees will be appearing in some of the province’s most read agriculture publications, including The Grower, Ontario Farmer, Better Farming, and Country Guide East. We’ll be celebrating the success stories by publishing them here as well.
The New Farm co-owner Brent Flies, left, discusses local organics with Ryerson University tour attendee..
The New Farm gives optimism to fellow small-size farming operations
Farmers teach other farmers how to scale up and enhance profitability.
Soon after The New Farm began selling high-quality produce to Ontario and Greenbelt farmers’ markets and high-end restaurants, the demand for supply grew, and so did the pressure to scale up.
The New Farm, located just outside the Greenbelt, was challenged on its 100-acre farm to implement processes to ensure consistency in its organic produce and meet other distributor needs.
Overcoming the challenges
"Our distributors wanted to sell more of our product, but we didn’t have the volume to say yes," said Gillian Flies, owner of The New Farm with her husband Brent. “We needed to scale up and that’s when we approached the Greenbelt Fund."
The Greenbelt Fund invested $59,000 which has led The New Farm to finance a CanadaGAP food safety certification upgrade, install an additional cooler, provide on-farm pickup, and purchase an irrigation system for timely germination. This, among other operational advancements, has allowed The New Farm to extend their growing season and give other small local organic operations a place to store and ship their vegetables.
"We didn’t know how to engage with larger distributors or public sector institutions such as hospitals," said Flies. "Working with the Greenbelt Fund, we were able to find out what their requirements were and learn how to sell to them."
"Our work is all about making sure Ontario’s farmers and Ontario’s processors can access new and different markets," says Kathy Macpherson, Vice President of the Greenbelt Fund.
With support from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) the Greenbelt Fund is investing in the agri-food system, not just in the Greenbelt, but across the province. It connects people throughout the food supply chain and makes investments at critical points to encourage more use of Ontario and Greenbelt-grown food. At nearly two million acres of protected green space and fertile farmland, the Greenbelt is a catalyst for strengthening the viability of agriculture across the province.
In addition, The New Farm invested in two cold frames where they grow English style cucumbers. This endeavor landed business from a new distributor and an opportunity to sell to the public sector at an appealing price.
Reaching local buyers
"The processes and infrastructure that were put in place have doubled the amount of produce we’ve been able to put into the market," explains Flies. The New Farm has already pre-booked $100,000 worth of extra produce for next season. They have grown to be a fiscally viable, sustainable organic farm but Flies recalls a time when a good business model for a small-scale farm was hard to find.
"As a small farm starting up, you often wonder if you’re ever going to be able to make a living on your farm," says Flies. "We are proof that it is possible to be a profitable small-sized organic grower in Ontario without compromising quality, sustainability or our values, which is why we want to share our knowledge with as many farmers as possible."
The New Farm will often invite groups such as Ryerson University and chefs from various organizations to come visit their farm to skate on the pond, cook together, and talk about local organic food.
"We give them the opportunity to experience local food, first hand and explain the value in consuming it," adds Flies.