“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.
Farming! Maybe not what you first think of as a “futuristic” job considering it is one of the oldest professions in human history, but today’s article looks at modernizing farming and bringing it to the forefront of the increasingly digital-first world.
Lana Reading is the co-owner and operator of Dual Rill Farms on Highway 522 in Golden Valley, Ontario. Along with her husband Earl, the third-generation farmer is hoping to attract the “fresh to the table” market for not just the residents in the area, but anyone travelling through cottage country.
“There is no grocery store here in Golden Valley and to get to North Bay it is 45 minutes to an hour on a good day,” says Reading.
“You don’t really realize how many cottages there are in this area until they start showing up for the summer and we are hoping to give them an alternative to trucking up their supplies for 2-8 hours depending on where they are coming from. If we have a store here, they can pre-order and I can have it all ready for them when they get here. We do e-transfers as well so you pop in, grab your stuff and off you go to the cottage.”
Originally from southern Ontario, the Readings have a wealth of background knowledge in farming.
“I was born and raised on a dairy farm, whereas at the age of 15 my husband started his own hobby farm. We met at Ridgetown College and after college, we both worked in various agricultural related jobs and then we started our own beef cow farm,” says Reading.
“We rented the farm just down the road from us that had approximately 200 – 230 acres. But then the gentleman was selling it and we couldn’t afford it and so we had to bring everything back to where we lived but it's kind of hard to put 40 cows and 40 calves onto 20 acres, so we got out of that.”
However, Reading says the opportunity to operate their own farm came together in 2016.
“We ended up building our own house and getting jobs in different areas but we would farm on the side with about 10-15 acres or helping out my dad,” says Reading.
“In January of 2016, my dad had a heart attack and he had to be on rest so I used him as my passenger when I was doing my job for the rental company down south and he and I would come up on weekends and bring different loads of stuff to put in the garage of the property we purchased in Golden Valley. We would sleep at my in-law's cottage and then drive back and we did that over the course of a few months and by September of 2016 we were finally fully moved in.”
Reading says the initial idea was to run a 60-cow/calf operation and expand from there.
“However, one of our friends had started up her own business as a dairy farmer in Brantford where they process their own milk and cheese curds. She gave me the opportunity to go down there and help her for a week and she helped guide me of the ins and outs of operating that kind of farm.”
Reading says after getting that opportunity they thought that it would be a good business venture to provide a store for the Golden Valley area that is capable of providing grocery needs in a farm-type setting
“There are a lot of locals who might not be able to get to the grocery store. It’s about 20 minutes from Port Loring or 25 minutes from Trout Creek, but this is a local farm market store,” says Reading.
They relied on their connections from their former farming days to start with a base of different products to sell.
“I grew up with all these farmers kids so we had made those connections already. When we started to consider this as a possibility, we reached out to them and asked if we could buy directly from them,” says Reading.
To get the product Reading heads south once a week, “I head south on Thursday and get the product that was just picked either that day or the day before and by the time I’m back Thursday we’ve got the vegetables ready for Friday morning, which is a fairly fresh product for people in this area.”
She adds, “A lot of people want to know where their meat and vegetables are coming from and by doing this it supports us and other farmers that I know from this area and from southern Ontario.”
Reading says they are also raising their our own beef, pork and chicken and, “We are more than willing to show people how we are raising them and I think that’s what everyone needs, just to be able to see where their stuff comes from.”
“There’s so much communication about making sure you know where your product is coming from and as farmers, we take pride in what we do. So if we can have the opportunity to provide the product directly to the customers, then why shouldn’t we tell them what’s going on?”
Reading says when people stop in they can see the cows and the chickens.
“Some people can’t raise animals because it can be too hard for them, but that’s what we do as farmers, we take care of our product and we take care of what we eat and how we do it, so why not provide that for other families?” says Reading.
The farming part is just one aspect of the job, getting the name out about the store is something Reading has been working diligently on.
“There is a lot of marketing in this job,” she says.
“I’m on Facebook and Instagram and I managed to work with Fanshawe College in London. They received a grant to help farmers with an e-commerce website and they were very good with getting us hooked up on that,” she says.
Having an online presence has certainly helped so far according to Reading but she adds the old fashioned way of word of mouth and community involvement still go a long way.
“In the last couple of years, I have donated all the ground beef to the local United Church in Port Loring for their spaghetti supper. We also have plans to attend different farmers markets as well if everything goes well,” she says.
“People here are excited about this coming to the area. With new people coming in and out and new residents coming in, they are happy knowing that we are here and give them the availability to not have to drive 20 minutes to get their groceries. If anyone wants to place an order, all they have to do is call or send us an email and we can get them what they need.”
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