Pride in the product
Discovering a passion for old-fashioned farming
Jake Macdougall grew up on a vineyard caring for grapes, but he knew early on that life as a winemaker wasn’t for him.
His heart lay somewhere else, though it took working in construction and buying a hobby farm to discover what would ignite his passion.
“My partner always had horses. So, we kind of wanted to buy a hobby farm,” he said while preparing to greet guests at MacDougall Meadows in Centre Burlington.
“We started looking and this place came about and we bought it and I put in a garden and got some chickens and stuff. I thought, ‘Well, I can take this a bit further; I think I’ll try and sell some,’” Macdougall recalled.
“At that point, traceability for my food was there. I was producing it myself; knew where it came from, knew what (the animals) ate.”
He decided to start selling product four years ago and, while the farm is still a small operation, Macdougall has a steady but growing clientele.
And he’s just 28 years old. Macdougall is among the province’s growing number of young people helping redefine farming and agriculture. For him, it’s about taking pride in the product and providing customers with healthy, local options.
“It’s important to know what you’re eating, how it was grown and how it was produced,” said Macdougall.
Macdougall Meadows is situated on 11 acres off Highway 215 in Hants County. The farm produces and sells free-range chicken, free-range turkey, pasture-raised pork and duck, and a variety of vegetables. They have a presence at the Halifax Forum Farmers’ Market and Brewery Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and are set up at the outdoor Windsor Farmers’ Market on Sundays. They also participate in the monthly pop-up market at Meander River Brewery.
One aspect that makes Macdougall’s farm really stand out is the use of horses, versus expensive farming tractors. He is in the process of training a new horse, Tina, to work alongside the already-trained Callie, so much of the gardening work has been done by hand.
While tractors can do the work faster, Macdougall said the benefits of using horsepower far outweigh the cons. Horses cause far less soil compaction than heavy machinery. That, he said, benefits the soil and the crops in the long run. Horses also produce manure and while they have costs associated with them, it amounts to less than the cost of specialized, motorized equipment.
Macdougall’s mother, Sandra Macdougall, and stepfather, Bruce Wright, both volunteer their time in the garden and help wherever they can.
She said they are proud of Macdougall’s entrepreneurial spirit and the good food he’s providing.
“Someone once said you should choose your farmer with as much care as you choose your dentist, doctor and lawyer,” she said.
Rebecca Shirley holds Foster as he watches his dad, Jake Macdougall, check in on the horses at the farm. The young family may be new to the world of farming but they already have a steady and growing client base.