Richard Bering’s great grandfather settled in the St. Catharine’s region in 1937 and the family has been there ever since.
White Meadows Farm started in dairy cattle, producing milk and selling hay to horse farms in the area. They also harvested juice grapes up until 2008, when a slump in the local market forced them to make the difficult decision to rip out their 50-year-old Concord and Niagara grape vines.
Their foray into the maple syrup industry started as a hobby in the late 1980s. “We tapped a few trees in our backyard,” says Mr. Bering. “And that’s how we started.”
White Meadows Farm is now primarily known in the region for its maple syrup. In fact, every springtime, roughly 20,000 people descend upon the farm to enjoy the festival, pancake house and the so-called "sugar bush adventure" where the history of maple syrup unfolds.
“It gets a little crowded in March,” Mr. Bering admits. “But it’s always lots of fun.”
He attributes the success of his farm not only to Canadians’ genuine passion for maple sugar, but also to the time of the season itself. “You can’t do much outside in the yard, and skiing is over, so if you like the outdoors, it’s the thing to do in Canada.”
At peak season, White Meadows Farms produces and sells approximately 5,000 litres of syrup. Most of this is sold in bottles, but some of the syrup is used to make other products including candies, candles, herb dressing and barbecue sauce. On February 7, 2010, White Meadows Farms made their first batch of locally-harvest kettle corn, which was an instant hit with the locals.
“We were doing some farmer's markets and popping the corn right there and it was very popular,” says Mr. Bering. “If we run out, our customers are a little upset when they come in!”
The joy of working on the farm, for Mr. Bering, is the fact that he gets to work with his family and that every day is totally different. The biggest challenge he faces occurs in the springtime, when the farm is producing the syrup. Sixteen to 18 hour work days are not out of the ordinary.
“Sometimes it's like 4 in the morning and I’m still working and then I'm up at 7 a.m., but thankfully it’s just for a month,” he says. “But when we're actually making the maple syrup, it's all hands on deck and ‘getter done.” There’s nothing more Canadian than that.
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