OUTLOOK: Buying local imperative to agriculture businesses

Emma Davison, one half of Golden Ears Cheesecrafters in Maple Ridge, reflects on running her business in the year of COVID-19. (Scott Saunders/Special to The News)Emma Davison, one half of Golden Ears Cheesecrafters in Maple Ridge, reflects on running her business in the year of COVID-19. (Scott Saunders/Special to The News)
Bob and Debbie Hopcott from Hopcott Farms in Pitt Meadows. (Hopcott Farms/Facebook)Bob and Debbie Hopcott from Hopcott Farms in Pitt Meadows. (Hopcott Farms/Facebook)
Emma Davison, one half of Golden Ears Cheesecrafters in Maple Ridge, reflects on running her business in the year of COVID-19. (Scott Saunders/Special to The News)Emma Davison, one half of Golden Ears Cheesecrafters in Maple Ridge, reflects on running her business in the year of COVID-19. (Scott Saunders/Special to The News)

If this year teaches the community anything, let it be their buying power in helping local businesses survive the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

At least that’s what two local business owner learned as they reflected on the agriculture industry and operating their businesses in 2020 – amid COVID-19.

Emma Davison and her sister Jenna Bock own and operate Golden Ears Cheesecrafters in Maple Ridge, and they attribute their survival to the diverse offerings of their business that provides several different revenue streams.

“It’s definitely been a challenging year, and it challenged a lot of agricultural and tourism-based businesses, in addition to local purveyors that are making local artisan products,” said Davison, who is also on the Maple Ridge tourism committee.

Similarly, family operated Hopcott Farms; which run a local butcher shop, wedding venue, and cranberry farm, say they managed well this year thanks to multiple revenue streams.

“It’s been challenging, no doubt about it. But, I guess from a pure dollars and cents perspective it’s actually benefited us, not that you like to benefit from a bad situation, it’s just the luck of the draw,” said Bob Hopcott, founder and part owner of Hopcott Farms.

Due to provincial health restrictions, the family did not host any weddings at their venue this year; however, they saw a significant uptick in sales at their butcher shop that helped make up for the lost revenue, he explained.

“Our sales are way up, people not eating out I guess; they’re cooking more at home,” said Hopcott, noting their shop gained many new customers.

READ MORE: COVID fuels potential sale of Chances Maple Ridge

He estimates sales at their meat shop rose 40 per cent compared to last year.

“We couldn’t keep up with the demand at the beginning,” he said.

But the sales haven’t come easy, as provincial health restrictions have forced theirs and other businesses to adapt to new rules.

To continue operating its bistro, for instance, the Hopcott family has temporarily set up an outdoor heated tent to safely serve its customers.

Similarly, Cheesecrafters adapted. But as Davison noted it is challenging to continue operating at such reduced capacity.

“I think this is the beginning of a lot more small businesses and small producers shutting down, even in the last two months we’ve seen a lot of restaurants shut down… it’s not feasible for us to operate at 50 per cent capacity,” she said about the provincial health restrictions.

Cheesecrafters was hit particularly hard in early spring by the closure of hotels and restaurants, because it meant they could not longer rely on those revenue streams and no longer sustain the cost of producing.

As a result they were forced to layoff staff.

Instead, the artisan crafters had to “pivot” to where there was a demand in the market.

“We shutdown our store and we turned it into a grocery-packing facility,” Davison said.

Although they adapted to the circumstances at the time and stopped producing, they were later met with new challenges when businesses began to re-open.

“It left us for a couple months there, with no stock on a lot of items,” Davison said, explaining it can take upwards of nine months to make cheese and requires months of planning.

READ MORE: Maple Ridge forestry firm sells Stave Lake Cedar Mills

But Davison noted that “majority of food sectors were panicking,” including dairy and poultry, as the public started “mass buying” in the early stages of the pandemic.

“People were doing a lot of panicking and I think it really affected the market negatively,” she said.

Likewise, the Hopcott family struggled to keep up with demand at the start of the year, where they were forced to source cattle from other Canadian farmers that met their quality criteria.

But Davison hopes this year leads consumers to look to their local food system.

“I really do hope that most people will see the advantage of investing in their local food system and [their] buying power, their buying power is so important,” she said. “If they are choosing to spend their dollars with a local producer… not only are they making [the product] but they are also employing local families and local people to make those products. By investing your dollars in even just a small amount of what they are producing it goes such a long way.”

Personally, Davison said the impacts of the pandemic has taught them how to quickly adapt, but their primary focus will remain to be supporting their staff and listen to their customers.

“Be kind to retail workers… just be gracious, those people are still working the frontline even if they are not in healthcare,” she said.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

agritourismCoronavirusmaple ridgePitt Meadows

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue swift water team drives up the Lower Falls trail at Golden Ears Park to help a women who lost her way. (Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue/ Facebook)
Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue aid woman stranded by waterfall

Hiker found herself unsure of the way back while walking in Maple Ridge’s Golden Ears Park

Coun. Chelsa Meadus
Maple Ridge councillor calls out province on homelessness

MLA says he has been willing to meet with the city, more addiction treatment coming

Maple Ridge city hall recently conducted a citizen satisfaction survey.
Homelessness and poverty detracting from quality of life in Maple Ridge

Citizen survey shows more than three quarters of residents are satisifed

The intersection at Harris Road and Lougheed Highway (Google)
LETTER: Pitt Meadows resident wonders why traffic signals not updated

A local man has contacted the city and road contractor with concerns to no avail

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

BC Place Stadium in a photo posted to cisc-icca.ca.
Roof of BC Place a stage for performers during online music festival

‘This will be the first time any artists have performed from the 204-foot iconic Vancouver rooftop’

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Driver crashes vehicle twice in one day near Princeton

Abbotsford woman, 29, wasn’t injured in either incident

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Most Read