October 1st, 2020
Check out our online store. We have recently added thanksgiving box specials. The boxes can be bought alone or there is an option to link to a combined page with Getaway Butcher Shop that allows you to add free range turkey, wine and desert. We are hopeful that this endeavour will lead to many such collaborations.
Between the last paragraph and this there has been a battle going on in my head (and a considerable time lapse) about whether I want to get too deep into the challenges and unfair political intervention that has made the business of feeding the world into an increasingly stressful and complicated existence for nearly all farmers. I don’t want to make this into a weekly negative rant. The fact is that I waver between being excited about what the future can bring and unnerved by the exponentially increasing demands and restrictions being placed on the industry. We have more and more responsibility placed on us, mainly in the form of government regulation driven by big business and politics, but ever less control. That changing dynamic is toying with disaster. On the bright side both of my kids want to be involved in the business in the long term. That is an amazing motivator, feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment. It also accentuates my feelings of excitement for the future and deep worry about what that future might look like if things continue on the current path.
So here is a bit of a glimpse into what the first half of this week (and parts of previous weeks) looks like.
In an attempt to stay relevant and solvent we are in what seems like a never ending race to innovate and morph. We have been at it for nearly 30 years and still there is no room to slow down even a little bit. My job description seems to be pulling horseshoes out of a politically incorrect place. It’s really starting to hurt!! The last three seasons have seen one disaster after another both in weather and in what everyone now refers to as “these times”. Add to that an increase in wage costs of $1.50 per hour since 2018 that knocks $90,000 per year off of the bottom line and finances are getting pretty precarious. We are only still solvent because we went into 2018 with a very strong balance sheet through years of careful decision making. We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in mechanization since 2018 because it is very easy to see that manual labour is not going to be viable in the very near future.
On top of all of that we are actively working toward another “ value added” (read: “ separate business to make ends meet because farming isn’t profitable anymore”, cynical? Yes. But very true) enterprise that requires us to build a new food safe, inspected facility to process surplus and waste vegetable products and add new cash flow. I’ll give a full rundown on the details in a later post.
We are grateful to have some government financial support to cover some of the costs associated with meeting food safety standards (although we would very much prefer to either get paid more for the products we grow or, alternatively, have the regulatory bodies leave us alone so we can compete on the world market. All the food, environmental safety and living wages in the world do absolutely no good if no one can afford to grow food under those regulations). Along with government funds come many complexities and somewhat arbitrary deadlines. I have spent the last several weeks and (very intensively) the last three days trying to figure out everything needed to go into our new facility and get it all priced and arranged so that we can take advantage of the financial support. It’s a steep learning curve and answers are rarely easily found. There are dozens of criteria for floor layout and product flow. Heating and ventilation have to be done in a certain way to push air from the finished product area toward the wet area where raw product enters and at the same time eliminate all condensation. Floors have to be perfectly sloped toward special slot drains so that there is absolutely no place where water might stand on a floor. The floor surface itself has to coated so that it is 100% non-permeable. Walls and ceilings have to be of food grade material and installed so there are no cracks and crevices that could hold dirt. The entranceway, office, bathroom and employee rest area have to be organized so that there is minimal possibility of contamination from outside. Lighting has to be vapour tight, shatter proof and provide stated minimum standards of illumination. Now add the extra layers of engineering, permitting, electrical considerations etc. Maybe I would be smart to hire a general contractor but the chances of finding one with all of the right criteria who is available when needed and I can afford is basically zero.
Right in the middle of all of this complication I seem to have have sent my daughter Gillian to the right drop off point location for Nourish Your Roots school fundraiser boxes but on the wrong day and through all of the confusion she is late for our box drop offs at the Forum. That’s a sure sign I’m mentally over taxed. I sure owe her one now. Traipsing around the city in a five tonne truck isn’t exactly a joy ride!
So there you have it! If your head is spinning or hurting a bit you get the idea. And this is just the building. The business plan development, product development, marketing and financing have been ongoing for a full year. That’s a modern farmer….who knew?
Thank you all for your support.
Keep eating your veggies!