Wellington County business unlocks the value of waste through circular food collaborations
Shelly Walsh has a strong background in packaging, product design, and product development from a prior career in the textile design and clothing industry. She wanted to continue to apply these skills after leaving that industry in 2010. Living on a farm on the Grand River just outside of Elora, Shelly wanted to work within her own area doing something she felt good about. Celebrating the abundance of local food sources made sense. As a result, Shelly started planting nutritious plants including elderberry and sea buckthorn. Building on the notion of using what is available locally, upcycled, and beneficial to the environment around her, Shelly came up with the idea of whiskey barrel aged maple syrup. This upscale maple syrup, along with elixirs, drizzles, confits, and chutneys are now all products available from her small business: Wellington Made.
Having participated in Innovation Guelph’s Business Accelerator Program - Gear Up which helped her to scale her business and increase sales, Shelly applied to Seeding Our Food Future (SOFF). Initially applying to the program to convert a container to a fridge freezer unit to store her berries, pulp waste, and whiskey barrels, Shelly decided to focus her SOFF project on expanding her business instead. Wellington Made has since been actively partnering with other businesses to unlock the value of waste, create new collaborations, and even inspire the development of new products. Partnering with a berry grower in Woodstock, Shelly presses their elderberries for juice, bottles it, then sells it back to them. The leftover pulp waste from this process, and that left over from the process of pressing her own berries for syrup gets delivered to a brewer in Toronto who turns it into a successful craft beer. Collaborating with a Canadian distiller, Shelly was able to create one of her best-selling products: whisky infused maple syrup. This process is completed through the cyclical reuse of whiskey barrels that are then sent back to the distiller who uses them to make a maple syrup infused whiskey. Her partnerships don’t end there; she is continuously working with additional business in and around Wellington County to create innovative products using berries and flowers grown on her own farm.
Shelly firmly stands by the circularity of her brand and is continuously looking for new ways to collaborate with others who have an eco-conscious mindset. She is excited to be learning about new ways to implement sustainable practices in her business and her own life. Whether it be packaging in glass bottles that can be recycled and repurposed or growing plants that regenerate the soil, Shelly believes that we need to be more aware of what we do as individuals to play our part in building a more sustainable world. Hoping to further promote fresh food for all, she is researching ways to further utilize the restorative space on her land. Shelly believes it could potentially be used to grow produce and/or give the opportunity to young farmers who don’t have a farm of their own. For Wellington Made, the possibilities for creating new circular food collaborations which reduce waste are endless.