The Neals are a first-generation farm family. Their venture into the world of agriculture took place just two years ago, and they are well on their way to becoming successful farmers and entrepreneurs. With the opening of Neal’s Country Farm and Market, Greg and Allyson Neal have big plans for their new farm and property.
At their farm, located on Second Line West on the western outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie, I had the opportunity to meet up with both Greg and Allyson while the harvest season was winding down and they were preparing for late fall and the holiday season. "We purchased this property from John Trudeau in 2016," says Allyson, "Greg and I decided we wanted a challenge and a change in our lives, and this opportunity seemed the right one for our family."
Greg’s business background is in landscaping and snow removal, which he still operates. Allyson comes from the customer service/retail sector. Both knew nothing about farming but were determined to make it work. They had great mentors in both John Trudeau, and their neighbours, Grover and Fran Edwards, of whom they say, "we could not have gotten through our first year without their wisdom, guidance and advice. The Edwards are happy to see the land stay farmed and want to see us succeed," Allyson mentioned.
Everything the Neals sell is grown either by themselves, or by other area growers. On their 10 acres of land, they grow a wide variety of vegetables, including potatoes, corn, garlic, carrots, peas, beans, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, and more. The seven greenhouses on the property help to extend the season and give a place to start plants; the Neals are proud to say they now start all of their own plantings. They have also started to grow their own hanging flower planters. Since growing their own garlic, Allyson pointed out that they have started to make their own garlic powder, and it has proven popular with their customers.
The Neals are proud to say that they do not spray any of their plants with chemicals. "The weeds are a challenge to stay on top of, but we’re able to offer non-sprayed vegetables to our customers, and that’s important to them and to us."
In addition to their Second Line farm, at another location on Baseline Road, the Neals raise laying hens for eggs and chickens for meat. Their free-run eggs and chickens are very popular with their customers and are sold at their on-farm market. In addition, in the store, as mentioned, they sell what they grow themselves and will bring in products from local suppliers, like fresh blueberries from a supplier near Wawa and sausages, hamburgers, and other meat products from Bruni’s Fine Foods.
Customer traffic comes from year-round residences, and seasonal traffic from Mark’s Bay Trailer Park, area cottagers, and American tourists from across the International Bridge.
Both told me that they love to get up early in the morning and with a cup of coffee, just take in the stunning landscape and beauty of their surroundings. View the mountains in the distance and take in the smells and sights of their growing crops. It’s one of the many benefits of owning and working on a farm. One thing that both Allyson and Greg said was that, "we are so appreciative of the support and positive feedback we have received from our customers. As well as seeing our kids proud too. It makes all of the hard work worth it."
Future plans with the business include: adding an industrial kitchen so that they can offer prepared foods and value-added products. As well as to start a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) program to meet demand for this service.
They are open seven days week during peak season, including stat holidays (check for days open during the winter months). During the Christmas season, their on-farm store turns into a Christmas tree, wreaths/decor, and baking store.
I have to say I was so impressed by both Allyson and Greg. They are a young couple with their children, starting out in the agricultural industry, which is not for the faint of heart! They are full of enthusiasm and know what hard work it takes to be successful. I have no doubt they will be.
A Vendor at:
Algoma Farmers’ Market www.facebook.com/algomafarmersmarket/
Mill Market www.facebook.com/millmrkt/