Sleepy G Farm isn’t just about food; it is also about building a community.
Marcelle Paulin and Brendan Grant didn’t think they would choose a career in agriculture when they met while they were students at Lakehead University. Paulin says she grew up in a rural area where the school bus “smelled of dung,” she says, but had no interest in farming at all. Grant majored in outdoor recreation and geography, but after graduation the couple had to find seasonal work and ended up working on farms in British Columbia.
“After that, we chose agriculture as a career,” says Paulin, “and we realized that the Thunder Bay area would be a great place to start.
The couple bought an old farm in Pass Lake in 2005 and started Sleepy G Farm. The farm has been certified organic since 2014. “We are probably the only certified organic farm between Sault Ste. Marie and Manitoba, ”says Paulin.
In addition to cultivating eight acres for vegetables, the farm has a herd of 25 cattle and a herd of around 100 laying hens for eggs and manure. In the summer, the animals graze and fertilize the land, and in the winter, their litter and manure is collected for composting for two years before being applied to certified organic fields.
Becoming a certified organic producer is not a quick and easy step; certification is a process that takes several years and requires careful record keeping. “But it’s not that hard, it just takes a little effort,” says Paulin.
In addition to keeping good records, they must ensure that all of their inputs are approved for organic cultivation. There isn’t much organic “infrastructure” in Northern Ontario, she says, so many items such as fertilizers and soil amendments have to be imported from other provinces or from the United States. . While this isn’t the easiest way to produce food, Paulin says there are benefits to being certified organic.
“Becoming certified organic and having to keep such detailed records has made our business stronger. We are able to collect all of this information, analyze it and reflect on it. It has benefited us as producers, ”she says. “We had to teach each other everything about farming and organic farming, from the ground up. It is a lifelong learning experience. But it has been very helpful to be involved in organic products.
Sleepy G Farm currently has over 250 subscribers to its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in the summer and over 200 in the winter. “We distribute vegetables from July to March every year,” she says. “We had the chance to build a wintering cellar and this allowed us to grow, then to store and distribute throughout the winter.
“Our business model is not so much to sell vegetables,” says Paulin. “We do. But we also sell the idea that farming is a possibility, both for people who don’t have a farming background, but also here in the north. Their customers are buying more than healthy organic food. , she believes.
“They also buy into the idea of supporting a local farming family. Sleepy G Farm is not a big business. It’s Marcelle and Brendan, ”she adds.
After 16 years of farming, the couple feel that they have reached their cruising speed. “We have a lot of supportive members in the community,” she says.
“We are also committed to supervising people like us,” adds Paulin. As active members of the Thunder Bay area farming community, they look forward to seeing others succeed in the kind of farming they practice. “We would like to see more people join us in the movement to produce more nutritious, healthy local foods,” she said.