Business & Policy
Farm market thrives on partnership
By Top Crop Manager
On a farm that is nearly 250 years old,
By Top Crop Manager
On a farm that is nearly 250 years old, a modern farm market and an agri-tourism business has developed. Beth Pattillo, who says she does not have an official title, manages many aspects of Noggins Corner Farm, a thriving business near Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Using a degree in microbiology from the University of Guelph, Pattillo takes special interest in food safety issues, but she is also active in education and marketing. The farm, which is actually three farms, including the original lands granted to the family in 1760 after the Acadian expulsion, produces many fruits and vegetables for sale, but not potatoes.
The potatoes offered for sale in the market are grown by a potato producer in a crop sharing agreement with Noggins Corner Farm. “Four years ago, we needed to find a supplier of
potatoes to meet the needs of our wholesale market,” Pattillo explains. “We were looking for a consistent supply of local potatoes with a range of varieties. The crop sharing agreement gets us a supply of small reds, good baking potatoes, blue potatoes and Yukon Gold. Our arrangement with the grower is very successful. Noggins Corner pays the bills and provides the labour and the grower brings his expertise in growing potatoes to the field along with his equipment. He green sprouts the seed so we have potatoes near the beginning of July.”
She adds that the potatoes are sold in the farm market and to various wholesale accounts. The arrangement gives Noggins Corners the expertise in potato production that would have taken too long to develop if they had started potato production themselves, and a profit sharing component of the arrangement gives the grower some ownership of the process as well.
“We hire crop consultants to look after all our crops, including the potatoes,” says Pattillo. “We have two crop sharing agreements and they have been very successful.” She explains that hiring growers to provide crops the market needs and using consultants to keep the entire operation successful is good business.
But, successfully running a farm and vegetable market is not enough and Noggins Corners Farm is actively providing education to consumers through agri-tourism projects. They started small with a corn maze, but Pattillo saw a greater need for education and has since worked with teachers and school boards to develop an agricultural component for the primary to grade 6 curriculum. The program expanded to include grades 7 and 8 in the fall of 2007.
“We welcomed about 2300 students through the program at the farm in the fall of 2007,” says Pattillo. “We charge for this component because we, as farmers, should not give away our expertise for free. We provide a service that can’t be found elsewhere and it has a price.”
Pattillo says being affiliated with agricultural organizations has meant a great deal to the farm’s success because each is a new learning opportunity. “Getting outside our area to see what others are doing is probably one of the most important things we can do,” she says. Being open to new ideas is very important, she adds. “Don’t ever say, ‘I can’t do that’.”
At this centuries old Nova Scotia farm, being steeped in history has its advantages, but it does not mean Pattillo and the rest of the farm’s management live in the past. They look for new opportunities and they are not afraid to seek the resourcefulness and expertise of others to get the crops they need. Above all, Noggins Corner Farm market gives back to the community and looks to the future by educating the next generation. -end-