The Rise Farm.
Believe it or not, The Rise Farm started from “one of those days”. Those days when you feel the need to escape the hustle-and-bustle of modern life.
After a long day at work, driving home in traffic, working at a desk, there is a longing that comes with the thought of moving away and starting fresh.
So what happens when you leave your city life and try living off the land? This is exactly what Sarah and Rob Winney did when they started The Rise Farm in Godfrey, Ontario (@therisefarm on Instagram).
Rob and Sarah Winney at The Rise Farm in their potato patch
DOZR sat down with Sarah to hear all about this transition from city to farm life with the creation of The Rise Farm. With one year of farming under their belt the lessons and experiences of these new farmers have encouraged them to educate people about the food they eat, the importance of supporting local businesses and the challenges they faced in their lifestyle transition.
DOZR: Before we get started, share the story of you and Rob and the beginning of The Rise Farm.
Sarah: I met Rob at a mutual friend’s wedding. We didn’t know each other before but immediately hit it off. We found out that we had a common interest in camping, cooking, and experimenting in new foods. Well, Rob more than I but he helped to push me down that path a little. We began exploring independent stores and farmers markets while camping. A few years after constant weekend camping, we decided to make a more permanent change. We decided to think about investing in land or a farm for our retirement.
All of this happened around the time when the housing market crashed. I had lost my job and we both felt like we were stuck in meaningless jobs working day after day towards nothing. We decided not to live our lives waiting for retirement but jump in with both feet and start living our dream life now. We weighed the options between buying land or a farm and landed on a farm that we saw only once. We loved it and decided it would be a new home.
We eloped to Algonquin Park to get married the same weekend we bought the farm.
What has been the biggest challenge since leaving Toronto and starting life as a farmer?
We knew it would be a big change but knowing it and doing it are two different things. We both work harder than I think we ever could have imagined but there is no better feeling than having someone send you a picture of their family meal that they made from food that you raised. It’s so hard, so fun, so rewarding and so much more all at the same time.
I like the hard work and responsibility to each other, to the animals and to the land.
How has working a small farm changed your own relationship with food?
I have a new understanding of the complexity of farming in general. Everything from haying to raising chickens is way more complicated than I thought. It makes me so much more appreciative of the work that farmers put into raising their animals and harvest.
Chicken wings, for example, used to be one of my favourite things to eat. Now, all I think about is how many chickens had to be raised and butchered for me to have a pound of wings to go with my cold beer.
Now whenever I eat lamb or pork or use a can of tomato sauce that I canned using my homegrown tomatoes I feel so much appreciation for my food. That is the message that Rob and I want to share with people.
This is where your “From Our Farm to Your Family” approach comes from?
Exactly. We want to challenge the view that meat comes in plastic and styrofoam. But it’s about challenging the entire mentality people have about food and what they consume. So our focus is on educating people through our instagram videos, having people up to our farm to see the process first hand and to encourage people to step outside of their boundaries to try new things.
You are big advocates for supporting local farmers too, right?
We are and it’s not only because we ourselves have entered the area of local farming. It is because I see now that when you buy something from a small farm or a family farm, that purchase goes towards something. Buying meat from a big conglomerate isn’t supporting that at all.
I’ve now seen first hand how much love and care goes into raising animals to farm. I have so much trust in the care that animals receive when they come from a small farm. Our animals, for example, are outside every day in the summer. We do our best to give them the best lives with proper food and no antibiotics. When you support a small farm or shop at a local market, it supports this mentality of what our food should be. Because I really don’t believe that food should come in plastic and styrofoam.
What are some new challenges that you have been facing since becoming a farmer that you didn’t have to face before?
Well, first of all, climate change is real. It is real and has been a big pain point for us this growing season. We haven’t had as much to bring to farmers markets and have not even had a farm stand this summer because things didn’t have as much time to grow. We went from winter to summer too quickly that it’s affected what our season looks like and how we plan for the next year.
So farming has changed your relationship with the seasons, too?
One thing that has totally changed is how I think about winter. Winter is always coming. It was so long and so cold last year and this year we are already planning for it.
Finish this sentence: The future of farming is…..
Female. And Hopeful. Bill Gates talked about the impact of female farmers in developing countries and how they are building up other women, encouraging education programs and are actually increasing productivity by being more active in the family farms. Although we live in Canada, I see this growing female farming community and as a female farmer, it makes a difference.
I also say hopeful because of the growing awareness of supporting local and small farms. The concerns people have about where their food comes from are real and farmers being active in the educational side of the food will set up our lifestyle to be successful for generations. So, hopeful. Very hopeful.
What is the end goal for you and Rob and The Rise Farm?
A lot of farmers also work full time jobs but our goal is to be full-time farmers. We want to be active in the food revolution and help feed people food they can feel good about eating. We hope to do our part in spreading the message that we are all living on the same planet and need to work together to achieve the lifestyle we all want.
What social media accounts do you go to for inspiration?
I follow a few instagram farmers who I find inspiration from:
They are both female farmers who are living their best lives, finding joy in what they do and are so honest about their journeys. Whenever I feel down or lonely in my lifestyle, they help me rediscover my inspiration.
Helena is the best. She promotes #farmfashionfriday and has gorgeous pictures of her crop. She also talks straight about being a female farmer. I find a lot of inspiration from her.
Talk about the female farming revolution!
Exactly! Social media is a great way for small independent farms to promote their way of life and products.
Well thanks so much for sitting down and talking to us about The Rise Farm. The passion you have about food is contagious. Is there anything you’d like to leave our readers with as a final thought?
Be kind to yourself and those around you. Believe that your choices can impact the world and strive to make the world a better place. And eat local!