If you look up the word “entrepreneur” in the dictionary, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a photo of Stephen Cousins sitting beside it.
If there was anyone who epitomizes an entrepreneur, it is Mr. Cousins, who runs Shepherds Farm in Pisquid, P.E.I., about 40 kilometres northeast of Charlottetown.
Not only does Mr. Cousins run the 110-acre organic farm with his wifeand five children, but he also cooks gourmet dinners for large groups, offers cooking classes, runs a six-bedroom lodge, a retreat centre, offers tours to tourists and school groups and, most recently, started a “Dirt, Dine and Discover” day-camp.
Then, there’s the fast-growing business of supplying organic produce and meat – Berkshire pigs, lamb, turkeys and chickens – to restaurants and markets around P.E.I.
But there’s more. Mr. Cousins is also the president of P.E.I.’s Organic Certified Organic Producers Co-op, which has seen the number of organic farms in the province climb to 63 in the past decade, representing about 7,000 acres.
It may sound exhausting, but Mr. Cousins seems to take it all in stride as he enthusiastically conducted a two-hour tour of his farm recently. After spending time with Mr. Cousins, it’s difficult not to get excited about the growth of organic farming and its benefits. This makes him as much a salesman as an entrepreneur.
What is particularly impressive is his entrepreneurial approach he takes to farming. Mr. Cousins is always looking for opportunities to grow new things – much of it to meet demand from restaurants, producers and consumers. He started growing grapes for wine, for example, and to establish a bee colony to produce organic honey. He’s also looking to plant a 50-tree apple orchard.
Another part of his approach is how he has encouraged his children to become entrepreneurs. His daughter, Naomi, sells produce at the Queen St. Cooperative Food Market in Charlottetown while Hannah, 16, has a flock of turkeys and sells strawberries. Daniel, 12, is focused on raising chickens and Berkshire pigs, as well as raspberries.
Each child has is responsible for their own business, which includes hiring people to help them. With more than touch of pride, Mr. Cousins talks about how Daniel’s Berkshire pigs are in high demand from local restaurants.
Organic farming can be a hard way to make a living, given the amount of work and long hours involved. But for someone as passionate about farming and entrepreneurship as Mr. Cousins, it’s hard for him to imagine doing anything else.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.
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