Back in 2005, a group of farmers in Algoma District, on the North Shore of Lake Huron, made the decision that they wanted more control over their businesses. They were tired of shipping their beef cattle to Toronto and being dependant on others to get the price they not only needed, but deserved for their hard work.
Instead of taking a back seat and letting others make decisions affecting their future, that small group of five farmers decided to take matters into their own hands and form Penokean Hills Farms (PHF) as a way of marketing and selling locally raised beef.
It’s a Northern Ontario and Algoma agricultural success story with no signs of slowing down.
I met recently with Nick Gordon. He’s been working with PHF for just over a year now, but really has a long history with the business. His dad’s farm is one of the originals involved in the group, so he not only grew up in the farming industry, but has now brought his business/graphic design skills and enthusiasm to the business as their very busy Director of Sales and Marketing.
I asked Nick where the name “Penokean Hills Farms” came from. He said that it’s a name one of the founders, Will Samis, came up with. It’s a geographical name after a range of hills in Algoma.
Nick said there are now more than 12 farms involved in PHF, and they process and sell beef products wholesale as well as retail. They also, from time to time, have pork and lamb available to sell to retail customers. All the farms are located in the Algoma District.
I wanted to know what makes PHF beef stand out from other beef in Ontario and beyond. Nick has an impressive list of what makes their beef a premium product.
- It’s all natural
- No added hormones
- No anti-biotics
- No soy or corn
- All animals are under 24 months
- High marbling makes the flavour excellent
- The cattle are either 100% grass-fed, or grass-fed with the last three to four months fed a pea and barley mix. In fact, their innovative diet has won Penokean Hills Farms a Premier’s Agri-Food Innovation Award!
PHF is proud to work with a beef scientist from the University of Guelph who advises them on the best techniques to raise optimal Black and Red Angus beef cattle.
I wanted to know what local chefs think of the beef, and Nick was quick to add that chefs like the fact that it has exceptional flavour and tenderness; as well, they are supporting local family farms, which makes it a popular item on their menus.
In 2015, Penokean Hills Farms purchased the abattoir near Bruce Mines, Ontario. This has given them the opportunity to process their own products. Now that this service is more centralized, they have more options to expand. While the provincially inspected and regulated abattoir is owned by PHF, it also services the whole community.
Expansion is exactly what Penokean Hills Farms has been doing. They not only service the Algoma District, but now have customers in Sudbury, North Bay, Timmins, Huntsville, Toronto (GTA), Guelph, and Waterloo. Starting with just 50 head of cattle back in 2005, this year 350 is the count, with plans for 600 head in 2018. In just two years, Nick sees 1,200 head of cattle as being achievable.
For my interview with Nick, I was lucky enough to enjoy lunch at Embers Grill and Smokehouse and chose the Penokean Hills Farms Tender Cuts with Gorgonzola from the menu. It was so delicious! It was easily the best beef I have ever had.
For tourists, visitors, as well as residents of Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma District, here is the most up-to-date list of where Penokean Hills Farms products can be found, either on a menu or in a retail store/market to prepare yourself. You won’t be disappointed!
- 17 E Trading Post (at the St. Joseph Island Turnoff)
- Wacky Wings - Great Northern Road, Sault Ste. Marie
- Wacky Wings - Lake Street, Sault Ste. Marie
To find out more about Penokean Hills Farms and where and how to buy their products, visit their website www.penokeanhillsfarms.com