Seeding Our Food Future program helps local farm & cidery to expand on engagement and processing opportunities
Brent Klassen and his family moved to Heartwood Farm in 2004. For the past 16 years, Brent's partner, Val Steinmann has been farming the land, raising livestock, and managing the pasture while he worked off the farm. While planting fruit trees on the farm, Brent became enamored with fruit tree horticulture and his interest in the process of fermentation blossomed. In 2016, Brent began making cider recreationally. He was able to transition his hobby into a fulltime operation when a juncture in his career allowed him to spend more time at home and launch Heartwood Farm & Cidery. In 2017, Heartwood completed the Fuel Injection Program at Innovation Guelph and went on to participate in the Startup Program (previously GearUp) in 2018. With the mentorship and funding provided, they implemented their Creating Inspired Connections project, a highly interactive and experiential on-farm offering. Heartwood was able to fulfil their project goals by launching their farm store, tasting room, and their first farm experience. Having these programs under their belt, Heartwood was well prepared to take on a new project with the support of Our Food Future.
For Brent, a critical part of the circular food economy is being directly connected to sources of food and understanding the cycles of where it comes from. With the grant money and mentorship from Seeding Our Food Future (SOFF), Heartwood plans to create a four-season farm engagement program for people to learn about regenerative agriculture and how it impacts the food and beverages they love. This year-round program also contributes to the growing understanding of challenges to the circular food economy. As an additional part of their SOFF project, Heartwood is working with Provision Coalition to further expand processing opportunities in the cider house. These opportunities will address losses that typically occur through transportation, filtration, and bottling processes. With the expertise of Provision Coalition, Heartwood is discovering waste that can be recaptured or repurposed and thinking about products that they may be able to manufacture from their waste stream. Heartwood is developing a longer-range business plan that looks at scaling-up their production facility and addressing more circular initiatives.
Brent believes circularity encompasses three key aspects: good stewardship, community building, and regenerative agriculture. Circularity is about being good stewards to all that we consume, from apple juice to feed stocks and all resources in-between. It is also about building a sense of community by supporting other local farms. Heartwood views success as building deeper, more resilient connections with other food producers – not just an increase in sales. They run the Food, Folks & Farms program to showcase local growers and participate in collaborations to strengthen the local food system. The foundation of everything in the food system, and everything we eat can be traced back to soil. Heartwood is fundamentally rooted in regenerative agriculture as it has proven to build soil health, sequester carbon, and retain water better compared to traditional methods. Brent believes that using the land in a way that increases rather than depletes soil health is crucial for circularity. Incorporating these elements of circularity into their business is helping Heartwood Farm & Cidery make a meaningful difference in the Guelph-Wellington community.