A young Valley farmer is following in her family’s footsteps. But, she is doing it her way.
Emily teBogt has carved out four acres of fields on her family’s 450-acre dairy and chicken farm near Wolfville. The land was bought by her grandfather and his brothers in 1955.
Over the last nine years, she has developed her own business, teBogt’s Meat and Produce, where she sells spray-free vegetables and food products from her own sheep, pigs and laying hens, directly to her customers.
“I started working for my family when I was a little kid. Helping out with chores and bringing hay in and stuff,” she said in a recent interview.
“When I was 18 years old, they let me use a field to grow vegetables, mostly sweet corn. And, I sold that in my driveway."
Her entrepreneurial spirit was born.
"A year later I bought sheep," she says. "A year after that, I got the pigs and the laying hens and started my own business.”
teBogt said starting her own business, with veggies and sheep, felt like the right thing to do.
“It just makes me happy in a different way than helping my family with their cattle and their chickens. I enjoyed doing that as a kid, but I always knew I wanted to do something different because I wasn’t very interested in cattle or chickens," she said,
She was certain that farming was the right direction for her.
"I wanted to work outside, not be confined in the barns. I have allergies to cattle and dust and hay," she said.
"I feel that you have to find your own path and do what makes you happy. So, I followed my heart.”
FORGING HER PATH
teBogt liked the idea of selling her product directly to customers.
“That’s not something you can do if you are a dairy or chicken farmer. With supply management, your products have to go to the plant," she said.
She also had her own ideas about how to raise her livestock.
“With the livestock, I wanted to raise them more naturally, outside on pasture. I love seeing my sheep out there grazing, and they feed themselves. They look so happy out there.”
teBogt’s passion for growing vegetables was ignited when she attended the New Farmers Gathering in Black River in 2009. What she saw there inspired her to attend the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, where she completed a plant science diploma in 2012.
“I saw them growing vegetables there, and I thought that looked really cool," she said. "That made me want to go to school and learn about vegetable production because I didn’t know anything about it. It was something telling me I needed to go learn how to grow vegs and grow them.”
It took some research, she admits.
“When I started, I just planted some seeds,” she remembers.
“I had to research what is the spacing for corn. I planted it, and it grew. I just had good luck, and I seemed to be naturally good at it. It was like my calling in life.”
‘FOLLOW YOUR HEART’
teBogt’s twin sister, Susan Hamilton, of Lower Onslow, is also an independent business owner.
Hamilton was always interested in beef, chickens, turkeys and pigs. However, she shares her sister’s determination to do things her own way.
“We both farm. But we are independent and started our own business so we could raise animals outside on pasture and sell directly to consumers," teBogt said.
teBogt’s advice to young farmers is simple: “Follow your heart and do what you feel is right, even if someone else is telling you no. I know what I want to do. And I do it.”
That kind of determination hasn’t always been well received.
“One of my uncles said to my father, 'The girls have crazy ideas'," she says. "But, now he looks at our animals and thinks it’s great. And my food tastes better than the food he would buy at the grocery store.”
teBogt acknowledges farming is a lot of hard work, and it can be stressful. But, in the end, she said her love for what she does can get her through the bad times.
“I love my animals a lot, and I get a lot of joy out of having them. I have to farm. It's just my life’s calling, my path in life.”
- This is part of a six-part series looking at some of the farmers who sell their products at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market.