A Wolfville-based investment co-operative committed to supporting local food producers is helping an Ashdale farm become a tourist destination.
The FarmWorks Investment Co-operative is providing Alan Bailey, the owner of the Meander River Farm on Woodville Road, with a $25,000 loan to help the hop farmer move forward with plans to open a microbrewery as early as this summer.
Bailey has been growing hops, an ingredient in beer, for three years. He says the microbrewery is part of a plan to make the Meander River Farm a popular agri-tourism destination.
“As a destination… you got to have something for people to see, something for them to do and then something for them to buy,” Bailey says.
He says more people have shown an interest in exploring the family owned and operated farm, on a homestead dating back to the early 1800s, since word spread the Bailey’s were harvesting hops.
“When they hear about these plants that grow 18 feet in the air and they climb this trellis… everybody wants to come and see them.”
The land-use zoning for Bailey’s 186-acre mixed farm was recently changed to allow for the operation of a microbrewery producing up to 200,000 litres of beer per year. Bailey says he plans to produce about 20,000 to 30,000 litres a year starting off, so the zoning agreement will allow for a lot of room for growth in the future.
In addition to producing locally brewed beer, the microbrewery will also include a farm store featuring lavender products made from crops grown at Meander River Farm, and Meander’s own pork and chicken products.
“It all ties together,” Bailey says.
“The hops go into the beer, the byproduct of the beer is spent grain, which we feed to the animals, the pigs are clearing land for us and we’re extending our crops.”
Ann Anderson, FarmWorks vice-chairperson, says the investment group sees Bailey’s plan to use “the animals as a way to get the farm started and as a product to sell” as a sustainable approach to farming.
FarmWorks held a series of gentle Dragon’s Den sessions in Baddeck, Blockhouse and Wolfville to give entrepreneurs looking for business advice opportunities to present their agriculture-related plans to FarmWorks, and ask for funding.
The for-profit co-operative uses the provincial Community Economic Development Investment Funds (CEDIF) program to collect shares from investors, and distribute loans to entrepreneurs focusing on projects that will increase the amount of food produced in Nova Scotia.
“If we want to restore the economy of the rural areas of Nova Scotia, there’s no better away to do it than through food production,” saysLinda Best, FarmWorks’ secretary-treasurer.
Best says FarmWorks carefully examines the business cases of the entrepreneurs requesting funding, and pitches that make it past the Dragon’s Den sessions are subject to some reworking as FarmWorks’ board members critique each proposal.
“We’re being very, very careful who we invest in,” she says. “They’ve got to go through a lot of hoops before we give them loans.”
Best says FarmWorks liked Bailey’s idea to add value to his mixed farming operation by building a microbrewery, and inviting people to explore a working farm nestled within a community known for its natural beauty, wineries, bakeries, parks and proximity to the seashore.
“The property itself is gorgeous,” she says.
“This whole Windsor, Hants area is probably not as well-known by the rest of Nova Scotians as it should be.”
Best says a $100 share in FarmWorks gives an investor a 35 per cent provincial tax credit.
“Nova Scotians have billions of dollars invested outside of Nova Scotia… this is a way to bring your money back and invest it close to home,” she says.
“So far the CEDIF program has brought about over $50 million investment in Nova Scotia.”
FarmWorks has raised $223,500, invested by 102 Nova Scotians, and partnered with nine local food production businesses.
FarmWorks is hosting an information session for potential shareholders Jan. 30, at 6:30 p.m., in the Brooklyn Civic Centre. For more information, visit www.farmworks.ca.