Sleepy G Farm isn’t just food; It’s also about community building.
Marcel Boleyn and Brendan Grant didn’t think they’d choose a career in agriculture when they met as students at Lakehead University. Pauline says she grew up in a rural area where a school bus “smelled like compost,” she says, but she wasn’t interested in farming at all. Grant majored in outdoor entertainment and geography, but after graduation, the couple needed to find seasonal work and ended up working on farms in British Columbia.
Pauline explains, “We then chose farming as a career, and we knew Thunder Bay would be a great place for us to start.”
The couple bought an old farm in Bass Lake in 2005 and started Sleepy G Farm. The farm has been certified as an organic farm since 2014. “We’re probably the only certified organic farm among Sault Ste.” Marie and Manitoba,” Pauline says.
In addition to planting eight acres of vegetables, the farm includes a herd of 25 cattle and a flock of hundreds of laying hens for eggs and manure. In the summer, the animals graze and fertilize the ground, and in the winter, their bedding and dung are collected for composting for two years before being spread out to certified organic fields.
Becoming a certified organic grower is not a quick and easy step; Certification is a multi-year process that requires careful record keeping. “But it’s not that hard, it just takes a little bit of effort,” says Pauline.
In addition to keeping good records, they need to ensure that all of their inputs are approved for organic growth. There isn’t much organic “infrastructure” in northern Ontario, she says, so many items such as fertilizers and soil amendments must be imported from other provinces or from the United States. Although it’s not the easiest way to produce food, Pauline says there are pros to having an organic certification.
“Having organic certification and having to keep such detailed records has made our business stronger. We are able to collect, analyze and think about all that information. It has been very beneficial to us as producers,” she says. “We had to teach ourselves all about farming and farming,” she says. Membership from A to Z. It is a lifelong learning experience. But it really pays to be involved in the organics.”
Sleepy G Farm currently has over 250 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) participants in the summer, and over 200 in the winter. “We distribute vegetables from July to March every year,” she says. “We were fortunate to build a winter storage vault and this allowed us to grow and then store and distribute them throughout the winter.”
“Our business model is not so much about selling vegetables,” says Bolin. “We do. But we also sell the idea that farming is possible, both for people without an agricultural background, but also here in the North.” You think their customers buy more than just healthy organic food.
They also support the idea of supporting a local farming family. Sleepy G Pharm is not a big company. It’s Marcel and Brendan.”
After 16 years of cultivation, the couple feel they have come to their stride. “We have a lot of supportive members in the community,” she says.
“We’re also committed to mentoring people like us,” Bolin adds. As active members of the farming community in the Thunder Bay area, they are eager to see others succeed in the kind of farming that they do. “We would like to see more people join us in the movement to grow nutritious and healthy local foods,” she says.