Relocating the farm produces new opportunities

  • 4 min read

Alberta to Atlantic

Just eight years after moving to Canning, N.S., Godfrey and Beverley Poyser have turned Getaway Farms into one of the most successful direct-to-market beef operations in the country.

In addition to being an anchor tenant in Halifax’s Seaport Farmers Market, the farm also supplies and operates two thriving full-time butcher shops that employ 20 people.

Godfrey and Beverley farm with their youngest son Thomas, their daughter Leonie and son-in-law Chris de Waal. In post BSE-Alberta, Godfrey struggled to background cattle and he unwillingly left the industry to start a small used car lot in 2007.

“My daughter Leonie saw how unhappy I was and suggested I give farming another go,” Poyser says. “She put a farm-wanted ad for us on Kijiji, and we got a response from a beef producer from Canning.”

“We flew out to take a look at the property, but didn’t get a good first impression,” Poyser says. The fog was so thick he couldn’t see his hand in front of his face, and the house needed upgrading. However, they decided to take one last look before ending their 10-day tour of the province. This time the weather co-operated, showing them the farm’s amazing views of the Annapolis Valley and the Bay of Fundy.

In reality, a farm this size by itself doesn’t pay,” de Waal says. “But vertically integrating and having direct-to-market sales opens up new possibilities.

While the scenery was stunning, the cow-calf operation running 40 pairs wasn’t particularly enticing. When the previous owner sweetened the deal with shares in the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market, Poyser decided to give it a go.

“In reality, a farm this size by itself doesn’t pay,” de Waal says. “But vertically integrating and having direct-to-market sales opens up new possibilities.”

The move was a big change, but it paled in comparison to learning a new approach to marketing. In Alberta, they sold their cattle to feedlots. In Nova Scotia, they market beef directly to consumers. 

 “People laugh when I tell them that I didn’t know the difference between an eye of round and a ribeye when I started,” de Wall explains. “But I did a lot of reading and cooking until I knew how to prepare an entire animal and relate what I learned to the customers.”

Large land base in northern Ontario

While the Poysers went east to pursue opportunities, Chris and Kyla Riach moved north from the family’s multi-generation dairy farm in Oxford County near Woodstock, Ont.

Close friends had started farming in northern Ontario 13 years before, and had been trying to persuade the couple to join them. So when the four adult Riach children expressed an interest in agriculture, the couple decided to give the north a serious look. What they saw inspired them.

“Not only is land more affordable, there’s a much larger available land base,” Kyla says. “The area is filled with farm properties that have people living on them but haven’t been farmed in years.”

They bought a 450-acre farm at Matheson, Ont., 800 kilometres north of Woodstock. Thousands of cattle were raised in the region until BSE hit.

“Lots of neighbours are in their ’70s,” Chris says. “They stop in and say, ‘By the way, my farm might be for sale,’ or ‘Could you come cut the hay on my land? You can have the hay.’ So while we own 450 acres, we have another 650 I can cut hay on.”

The couple plans to bring their first cattle to the farm as soon as they finish fixing fences, growing to 200 cow-calf pairs in the next five years. 

Saskatchewan’s agriculture culture

Terry and Bonnie Ludwig had great success milking 260 Holsteins on Vancouver Island and were named B.C.’s Outstanding Young Farmers in 1997. While the Ludwigs loved the dairy lifestyle, their children and their spouses didn’t.

After much family discussion, the couple sold their cows, quota and some of their land in 2010 to help the next generation set up a horticulture venture, an award-winning fruit winery, a custom woodworking shop and an apiary.

The younger generation’s ventures were thriving by 2012, but the elder Ludwigs were in a quandary. Since they weren’t ready to retire, the couple decided to go back to what they loved best, operating a dairy. They purchased a 100-cow dairy in Delisle, Sask.

“In a nutshell, we came to Saskatchewan for the opportunity,” Bonnie says. “Our passion has always been cows, but we couldn’t have gone anywhere in B.C. or Alberta and bought a dairy just using our cash flow like we could here. The whole philosophy about agriculture is different in Saskatchewan, too. It’s nice to be in a province where agriculture is what everybody is involved in and understands. The only disadvantage is all of our children and grandchildren are back on Vancouver Island.”

Since buying the farm, the couple has built a new milking parlour and have expanded.  They’re now milking 150 cows with no plans for retirement in sight. 

From an AgriSuccess article by Lorne McClinton.