Skip to main content

To ensure the survival of his sixth-generation family business, Richard Strang, CEO of Strang Produce Inc., knew that he had to invest in his company’s future.

THE CHALLENGE

To ensure the survival of his sixth-generation potato farming family business, Richard Strang, CEO of Strang Produce Inc., knew that he had to invest in his company's future.

Mr. Strang's father, Robert, had built the business at a slow and steady pace, expanding as funds became available. While this cautious approach had ensured the survival of the farm during lean years, it also meant that they didn't capitalize on new growth opportunities.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Strang knew that spending 14 hours operating aging equipment and then another four in the workshop to repair it wasn't efficient. Given the ever-increasing wholesale contracts, he knew that investment in new farm equipment and acquiring more cultivable land was critical to the future success of the family farm. The challenge was how to convince his father of the merits of borrowing.

THE BACKGROUND

In 1855, the Strang family started a potato farm in Malden, N.B. With five acres of land, they used the produce to barter for provisions, selling off any excess in the local markets. Mr. Strang's father continued the operation, selling the produce door-to-door in the local area.

A chance encounter with a buyer for Atlantic Wholesalers, who was impressed with the quality of the produce, led to a small bulk order contract.

Over the next 38 years the relationship blossomed into bigger orders from Atlantic Wholesalers as well as from Loblaw Cos. Ltd. and Co-op Atlantic for supplying potatoes across Atlantic Canada and Newfoundland.

Growing up on the family farm, Mr. Strang knew that he wanted to carry on the family tradition and joined the operations on a full-time basis after graduating from high school in 1987.

THE SOLUTION

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Strang had to figure out a way to balance his aggressive strategy with his father's cautious risk-averse approach.

Both agreed on the need to expand, but rather than following an approach that relied heavily on borrowing, they established an incremental plan that allowed them to buy new equipment and specialized machinery, as well as more cultivable land to feed the demand. The family continued to re-invest their earnings to supplement borrowing for the expansion and mechanization of the farm. The operation prided itself on always meeting demand from their wholesale customers as well as maintaining their quality produce and service.

THE RESULT

Over the last 10 years, the farm has seen impressive growth with business expanding over 50 per cent and the cultivable land increasing to more than 330 acres employing more than 15 people on a full-time basis. The farm has continued to keep up with the latest safety and environmental regulations to stay ahead of the competition.

Moving ahead, Mr. Strang is keeping up with industry trends by investing in new labelling and packaging processes as well as sizing of product. Keeping up with the family tradition, his two sons – David and Devon – have joined the business.

David has been working for the last two years after completing his high school and Devon has recently joined after graduating from Mount Allison University's business program. Devon is working on setting up Canada's first farm to table Vodka cottage distillery, which will use the farm grown potatoes as raw material. Blue Roof Distillers is set to launch next year with their Vodka product.

Story continues below advertisement

Nauman Farooqi is a professor and head of the department of commerce in the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies of Mount Allison University.

This is the latest in a regular series of case studies by a rotating group of business professors from across the country. They appear every Friday on the Report on Small Business website.

Follow us @GlobeSmallBiz and on Pinterest
Join our Small Business LinkedIn group
Add us to your circles
Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies