Business owners get a helping hand post-pandemic through Experimental Acres

‘Trying to balance COVID-19, being a new mom, and working full-time…it was just too challenging. It was basically just keeping the plants alive’

WELLINGTON COUNTY‒ Some small businesses across Wellington County are feeling the brunt of mental health pivoting back into post-pandemic life.

One of these businesses is Tullamore Lavender Co. (TLC), an 80-acre farm home to 2000 lavender plants in Arthur owned and operated by Stephanie Craig and her husband, Steven Larmer. While Craig didn’t always want to farm, escaping to the city from his family’s dairy farm as a young adult, he “felt called back to nature,” after working in communications at the University of Guelph.

“I was surrounded by all these interesting advances around how we use farming as a tool to feed people but also make the environment healthier and I was called back,” said Craig. “I was attracted to trying to do farming differently and creatively, but also selfishly, (Arthur) is a beautiful place to live. Maybe not when you’re 16, but certainly when you’re 36.”

Craig realized if she “wanted to make a go of it,” she needed to “take a bet” on herself and try her “other dream full-time.” Starting with a test plot in 2019, Craig began selling products at markets before their first big planting in 2020, when “things just stalled.”

“(Lavender farming) is great because I get to do the creative side as well as get my dirty hands growing a cool plant but it also makes it hard to do as a side job,” said Craig. “We started thinking (growing lavender) was an easy way to do (small-scale) farming and then you get in the effort of it and realize it may be a little more complicated than the internet says.”

Since lavender isn’t an essential crop, Craig has had to create his own market; inventing products and making connections with local businesses to slowly grow their customer base.

“Trying to balance COVID-19, being a new mom, and working full-time…it was just too challenging. It was basically just keeping the plants alive,” said Craig. “But while our business has grown very slowly, it’s also one of those things where we see more potential each time we harvest or have a new collaboration.”

According to Kristel Manes, the executive director of Business Center Guelph-Wellington, a non-profit that advises new entrepreneurs, many of their conversations with business owners have focused on mental health since 2020.

“A lot of clients were just struggling with and just needed some time to talk to somebody, to be able to share. We’ve had a lot of crying, sadness, sorrow,” said Manes, during her presentation at the Center Wellington council. “(But) there’s also been a lot of businesses who started, and navigated COVID-19 and are now finding ways to successfully pivot out.”

One way TLC pivoted was by joining the Wellington County Experimental Acres pilot in 2023, which provides small agricultural businesses with support for the first year of trying new farming practices on a small scale.

“Every time you till you lose a little bit of (natural soil) and it’s very hard to replenish,” said Craig. “Our theory is that we can plant directly into the plastic without doing any tilling, preserving the soil structure and helping with drainage.”

Whereas conventional lavender farming calls for tilling, Craig’s method uses sheets of black plastic to insulate the soil as well as form a weed barrier. The challenge is that the couple must wait an entire year before planting their next crop.

“You’re basically using the plants that were there before as compost to help feed the soil,” said Craig. “But we really feel like this could be a big game changer… for people who don’t have access to tractors or large equipment so they don’t have to worry about plowing, they just need time.”

Currently, the general public cannot visit the TLC farm but the hope is that the doors will be fully open for visitation next year when the first round of planting is completed. The farm does offer private tours and can host local community groups.

“People are so experience-oriented now, which makes sense. We’re trying to catch up on two lost years,” said Craig. “But I want to challenge the idea that… I have to open the farm up and compete to bring hundreds of thousands of people here. (I want to) get to know my customers so they can drop their shoulders and relax when they arrive.”

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally funded program. powergaming88 powergaming88 powergaming88 powergaming88 powergaming88 powergaming88 powergaming88 powergaming88 slot zeus nolimit city sv388 slot jepang scatter hitam slot thailand link slot thailand 777 slot powergaming88 slot luar negeri slot gacor maxwin slot gacor hari ini slot gacor terbaru mahjong ways 2 slot thailand jp slot slot bni slot bri slot bsi slot danamon slot gopay slot server korea slot malaysia slot amerika slot rusia fan tan monopoly live lightning roulette mega ball sweet bonanza candyland mega sic bo mega baccarat andar bahar sbobet88 ktm303 slot dubai slot qris powergaming88 Slot Thailand Slot Zeus Pg Soft Starlight Princess Slot Gacor Maxwin Joker123 Sv388 Slot Thailand Slot Thailand Slot Qris slot thailand joker123 mahjong ways 2 888slot sweet bonanza slot jepang slot thailand slot mahjong ways slot qris slot deposit dana slot dana nolimit city slot thailand sv388 slot888 slot kamboja Slot Thailand Starlight Princess Mahjong Ways 2 Slot Maxwin slot thailand akun pro kamboja slot filipina joker123 slot zeus slot88 slot thailand slot mahjong slot megaways NEW SLOT POLA GACOR Slot Server Luar jp slot slot ganas crazy time live slot qris slot akurat slot bca slot bni qris slot zeus server thailand server hongkong slot ovo slot gopay slot linkaja joker123 nolimit city sv388 starlight princess mahjong ways pg slot slot zeus sv388 idn slot slot server thailand slot thailand ladangtoto nolimit city koi gate sicbo online roulette online lice casino live22 baccarat online nolimit city slot ovo slot gopay pragmati play starlight princess slot pg soft slot mahjong slot zeus sv388 digmaan slot mania slot zeus slot thailand server thailand ying77 slot thailand judi bola live casino sv388 pg soft slot dana mahjong ways slot mania slot x500 ladangtoto slot server kamboja digmaan digmaan slot88 scv388 sabung ayam online slot live casino sicbo online live casino online slot thailand ladangtoto sv388 ladangtoto powergaming88 66kbet powergaming88 slot thailand ladangtoto slot thailand server thailand slot thailand slot thailand slot thailand slot gacor ladangtoto2 ying77 bet server thailand slot thailand ying77 slot88 ladangtoto ladangtoto slot maxwin sv388 sv388 slot gacor 66k bet slot dana sabung ayam inline slot mahjong slot toto slot server thailand slot gacor slot server thailand slot gacor slot thailand situs slot wwg slot slot daftar judi slot online indonesia slot gacor slot mawin slot gacor slot thailand slot gacor slot gacor demo slot pragmatic sv388 slot88 pgsoft Daftar Judi Slot Online Indonesia Paling Gacor di Indonesia Daftar Situs Judi Slot Online SLOT88 lucky neko slot gacor slot88 slot kakek slot maxwin slot thailand Slot Mahjong Ways 2 Mudah Jackpot Paus di PG Soft Hari ini 2023 Lucky Neko Situs Slot Gacor Pgsoft Hari Ini SITUS SABUNG AYAM SV388 ONLINE DAFTAR LINK LOGIN APK AGEN SV388
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