Challenge: When the best-laid plan goes awry
Solution: Developing Plan B and Plan C
Many people looked at the stretch of land for sale in Heckman’s Island, Lunenburg, and all they saw was a bog. Evelyn and David Ernst saw an opportunity.
The couple, who lived across the street from the underdeveloped property, knew that swampy land was great for growing cranberries. With some help from the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture, they cleared the land, prepared an environmental assessment, put in an irrigation system and launched Terra Beata Farms Ltd. Once the cranberries could be harvested, a three-year process, the plan was to sell their cranberries direct from the farm to packagers in the province. Those companies, however, were not interested.
“We were a new farm; we had no traceability,” notes David.
What they did have, says Evelyn, was a truckload of cranberries and no market. “So we purchased deep freezers and sold the products ourselves locally.”
What the couple discovered was that customers didn’t really want raw cranberries; they wanted preserves, dried fruit, and juice. The Ernsts were happy to accommodate those requests, and their product line expanded. They realized, however, to compete with major players in the market they had to distinguish their products. They saw that what was missing from store shelves were wholesome options such as sugar-free cranberry juice.
“It took a lot of experimenting,” says Evelyn, “but once we got good traction at farmers’ markets, we got a toehold in grocery stores.”
Today, the 19-year-old company grows, buys, processes, and markets cranberries and other value-added products including dried berries and juice. You’ll find their cranberry products in stores throughout Eastern Canada and their frozen cranberries used as ingredients around the world. A processing facility was added in 2005, and expansions followed in 2009, 2010 and 2015.
Success depends on give and take, says Evelyn. “It’s important to make a plan, but plans always change. Be flexible. Look for a need that’s not supplied and determine how you can meet this.”
Accessing financial capital is something the Government of Canada recognizes as critical to building, growing, and scaling a business. With support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the government is helping Terra Beata Farms upgrade its facility. A recent investment of $325,000 will help the company add a 3,750 sq. ft. addition to the present building, while also purchasing equipment to improve the efficiency and capacity of processing and packaging of juice, dried fruit, and frozen packed fruit.
Terra Beata Farms is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canada’s economy, at home and beyond.
For more information on programs and services available to businesses in Atlantic Canada call 1-800-561-7862 or go to canada.ca/acoa.