An interview with Brad and Rachel Gibson of Opoma Farms.
Describe your business.
Opoma Farms is a generational farm that has evolved over the years. It started as a dairy farm then transitioned to beef and chicken followed by turkeys and organic cash crops. We are now primarily focused on our 100% grass fed and finished Red Devon beef. Rachel and I are now third-generation farmers on this land and together with her parents have the largest herd of pure-bred Red Devon cattle in Canada.
What brought you to the region?
I grew up north of the area in Spring Brook, so it was an easy transition to the Bay Of Quinte Region. Most of the people I know commute to the Belleville and Trenton area for work and I was no different growing up. But my main reason for moving here was my wife. LOL
What makes the Bay of Quinte a good fit for your business?
The supportive community. There is a real following in the Bay of Quinte for supporting local. I’ve worked in small, local businesses for a lot of years before my transition to the farm and it is evident in most industries around the community just how much everyone here loves to support their neighbors.
What was the hardest thing about starting a business?
Just that initial jump. Going from a 40 hours-a-week job with biweekly paycheques to a career in farming where your capital gets tied up for long periods of time made it a little scary. But in all honesty I wouldn’t change it for a second.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in the area?
Re-invest into the community. Support other small businesses, local sports teams and community events. The local economy becomes stronger and more sustainable and will only provide more resources for your business.
What surprised you about starting a business in a smaller community?
I grew up in a small community with my parents being local business owners so I can’t say that too much surprises me. One thing I truly love is all the collaboration I see between businesses on social media. There is so much focus on creating awesome experiences for our customers and the BoQ.
How have you changed your operations during the pandemic?
At the start of the year we implemented an online ordering website with Squarespace. Initially this was set up with the idea that we could expand our market and also to hopefully (eventually) offer a self-serve option. Once COVID forced shutdowns, this system became instrumental in how our business was able to survive.
We shut down walk-in traffic and collectively with our customers and community embraced online ordering with social distancing pickup only. We are very grateful that we were unknowingly proactive but also that when the community was faced with a crisis they turned to us, rolling with these changes, all in stride and kept healthy, nutrient dense foods at the forefront.
Describe your perfect day off.
Anything with my family. It really doesn’t matter what we are up to as long as we are together. I’m happiest just hanging out at the farm all day in each other’s company. But maybe add going for breakfast together at the Backtalk Cafe in Warkworth.
What’s your secret to surviving winter?
In the words of my father in law: “Just embrace it!” I mean it is Canada.
If you were to have one word tattooed on you, what would it be?
This is a difficult one. I don’t know that I would ever get a tattoo of one word but if I did it would have to be something along the lines of Family. My wife and two kids mean everything to me, so it would be about the only fitting thing I could think of.