Fenwood Farm celebrates the grand opening of Fenwood Farm Country Store
By Brittany Spencer

The community of Ancaster exists as a focal point of Canadian heritage and history built upon landscapes of rolling farmland and the picturesque Niagara Escarpment. Ancaster is also home to one small family farm that is committed to a big mission of “providing nutritional gold” to the families and residents of the community. On Saturday September 13th, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Fenwood Farm is proud to announce the grand opening of the Fenwood Farm Country Store, located on their beautiful slice of Ancaster farmland at 774 Sawmill Road.

The story of Fenwood Farm began 24 years ago when owners John and Carol Fennema bought their Sawmill Road property and took their first steps toward actualizing their dreams of raising their family on a farm. While John worked full time as a heavy machinery mechanic at Stelco, he and his children spent the rest of their time working the farm and planting the family’s roots in raising organic and free-range chickens. The Fennema’s then converted the ground floor of the farm’s 1905 barn into a chicken raising facility and began selling organic and free-range chicken products from a small shop in their garage.

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“This is our history,” Carol said, “John continued to work at Stelco, and we continued to raise our chickens, and we really loved our chickens. We loved doing organics and the customer loved our product. From here, it started to build up slowly and began to expand. We started working with wild boar and emus all the while building our experience with organic farming with the ultimate eye on John eventually working from home full time so we could be a real working farm.”

After nine years of what Carol described as “farming by putting out fires”, she and John decided it was time for something to change. John left his job at Stelco and became fully committed to their business of the farm and Fenwood’s commitment to organics and nutritional purity.

John and Carol started their farming careers backed by a strong stance against the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and genetically modified seeds with the aim of providing organic agricultural products of the purest form. At Fenwood, raising chickens adheres to this same philosophy. With the help of their son-in-law, Mike, the Fennema’s began cultivating their fields according to specific crop-rotation patterns that allowed them to increase their crop yields and provide their chickens with all-organic grain, a system the farm still employs today.

Before long, Fenwood Farm was becoming somewhat of a local household name and attracted the attention of health food retailer Whole Foods, becoming their sole organic chicken supplier in Ontario. With this growth in popularity came another need for expansion and the Fennema’s purchased a second farm, that would be operated by their son David as Fenwood’s chicken-raising facility. With this addition, Fenwood could guarantee that their products would always be of optimal quality, free of additives and consistently adhere to their philosophy of organic and nutritional purity.

“When we started bringing everything to David’s farm we could breathe easy because now we were doing absolutely everything in-house. There were always challenges with other people raising chickens for us, they don’t always do things the way you want the to and this leads to a lack of consistency. Now, John is making all of the organic feed here at Fenwood and then we bring it directly over to the other farm. From there, our chickens are brought to John’s brother who owns a processing facility at Lowbank Farm in Hagersville. He only processes birds from Fenwood, which is nice because we can always be sure that our chickens are coming back to us and that they are always 100 percent pure organic.”

At Lowbank Farms all processing is done by hand, allowing for an attention to detail that is always reflected in the final product. Carol and John expressed great pride in the fact that their methods not only lead to a higher quality product but also contribute to local economies by providing jobs for many people within the surrounding communities. Fenwood Farm began as a family dream and a commitment to nutritional purity and sustainable local enterprise, and now years later their goals and commitments remain the same. “Sustained economy, supporting local business and purity of product is extremely important to us,” Carol emphasized. “and the suppliers and partners we do business with must fit with that philosophy.”

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With the opening of their new retail store quickly approaching, John and Carol are excited to share their nutritional philosophy as well as their beautiful property with all of the community. The store sits at the back of their antique barn that last year was refurbished by members of the Mennonite community who replaced all the outer walls with new pine lumber, keeping with the original 1905 design of the barn.

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However, it was important to John and Carol to preserve and salvage as much of the barn’s original charm as possible. All the original outer boards, along with salvaged red-pine lumber and beams from a collapsed barn on Butter Road, were used to create the interior of the barn, complete with an original barn door and a 19th century wagon that sits in the centre of their store. Even the store’s lighting system holds true to Fenwood’s philosophy of breathing life into the historical legacy of the farm. John has repurposed each lighting fixture from old chicken feeders that Fenwood Farm used to dispense their organic feed to their very own chickens.

“I really feel so honoured and privileged that we can be a part of our shared Canadian heritage,” Carol said. “There have been farmers that had to clear the land and start from the ground up and now here we are; we are able to enjoy the fruits of their labour and do our best to preserve their history here.”

For John and Carol, the opening of their new store is the next step in what they describe as “the natural growth of their business and their family.” With an expanding client base Fenwood Farm is thrilled to now have a more comfortable and vibrant space for their customers to enjoy their products. The grand opening will feature an afternoon of face painting, and a free organic hot-dog lunch. Fenwood will also be serving tea, cookies and muffins, all proceeds of which will go toward their chosen charitable partner, The Living Rock, whose important community work “aims to alleviate the effects of poverty and to provide opportunities for youth to move beyond their circumstances with the right supports.”

“We want people to come here for the experience of a family farm,” Carol said. “It’s all about that sense of nature, purity and quiet of the farm that we want to impart to our customers. We want to encourage them to take the time to come out and enjoy the farm, while at the same time provide them with the tools to choose better, purer and healthier foods.”

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