In February of this year, we will have been on this farm for 20 years. Wow. That’s the longest I’ve ever done anything in my career thus far!
Twenty years ago, Kevin and I were somewhat naïve and ever-optimistic young farmers, trying to figure out what to do with our lives. I was nine months pregnant; my nesting instincts were running rampant and we needed to put down roots, find a place to call our own and establish ourselves. Serendipitously, we stumbled upon this place now known as Pine View Farms.
For those of you who know Kevin, you will know he is the Visionary-Dreamer in our relationship. His uncanny ability to see potential —- to envision what something can “become”, convinced me to sign the mortgage. As Kevin’s polar opposite, I am the linear thinker, the one who takes his crazy ideas and outlines the precise steps to execute the plan. We make a fantastic partnership!
And so, two decades later, we find ourselves with two wonderful sons who are nearly grown, and a farm-direct meat business that sustains our family, our staff of five full-time and 20 part-time folks, all who work hard every day to put fabulous meat on your table.
What have we learned in 20 years?
Listen to Your Customer.
Over the years, we have let customers guide our growth. When we started, we only raised chickens. Then people were hungry for steak, so we added beef (it made sense because we had always raised cows). Then folks craved bacon, so we raised hogs, and so on. We’ve grown organically over the years by responding to customer needs and requests.
The best market research is talking face to face with your customer. A successful business follows the customer’s lead and finds a way to make it work.
Embrace failure, and move on.
“If you don’t have a few failures, you’re not taking enough chances.” ~ Roy H. Williams.
At Pine View Farms, we take chances. Whether it’s less risky experiments like testing batches of new sausage or bigger ones such as hosting our Farmer’s Market or Feast of Fields, we’ve tested different formulas of production and marketing, all to improve our customers’ experience of local food.
Our really big adventure, Souleio Foods, our boutique market-bistro in downtown Saskatoon, closed in 2013. It was a business ahead of its time and a tale of a partnership gone spectacularly and horribly wrong. However, we learned enormously from Souleio and like to think the Saskatoon food scene is better for it.
Our “real-life MBA’s” have cost us far more than our university degrees did! Experience is a powerful and wise teacher.
Take a vacation.
In our first years of farming, we did not take days off. Ever. Partly because livestock farming is a 24/7 job, and partly because we had zero extra money. Zilch. Everything went back into the farm.
But there comes a time when one cannot sustain that level of work without it affecting oneself and other people. We realized that our business was not sustainable if we were not personally nourished and rejuvenated.
When we take breaks from work, even just a long weekend, we are better people — better able to creatively solve problems, coach staff, help customers and parent our kids. Now, we take (almost) guilt-free vacation time both with our kids and as a couple every year.
Celebrate the Everyday.
Our goal is to create a life that fulfills us and brings joy to our family and the people around us. That means embracing the everydayness of life and celebrating when you can.
That’s why we renovated our old red barn instead of tearing it down (besides, it also has historical importance). It’s our friends and family party place.
Amidst the busyness of life, the wins and the disappointments, it’s important to take time to party!
“Eating is an agricultural act” ~ Wendell Berry
Having transformed ourselves over 20 years from conventional grain and cattle farmers to an All Natural poultry farm and butcher shop, our farm and personal beliefs align. Our business expresses our core values — to live better, in balance with nature and in our wider community. We believe that food is one of life’s best and simplest pleasures to be shared and savoured.
When we started Pine View Farms, our neighbours thought we were crazy. We were local before local was a thing. “Who would come out to Osler to buy meat?”, they thought. “How were we going to make this pay off?”, we asked ourselves. Admittedly, sometimes we weren’t sure. We can tell you that hard work, determination, commitment and a healthy dose of fear takes one a long way in establishing a new venture!
Ultimately, we would not be here if it wasn’t for you, our dear friends and customers, who buy our meat throughout Saskatchewan every week. We are grateful for each one who bravely steps out of the ordinary to support local farms and food purveyors— particularly our farm. And for that, we say a simple and heartfelt “thank you.”
Here’s to 2018 and many more years of farming, food and friendship!