Business Name: Maple Ridge Farm
Founder: Becky Williams and Mark McCrady
In ten words or less, what's so special about your products?
We create honey products with integrity and seasonality.
Intriguing. Tell us more.
We sell honey from hives that we’re keeping on our farm. All of our honey, whether it’s runny or creamed, is raw and unpasteurized. Even with the creamed honey, the qualities of the honey are still there, just enhanced with seasonal flavours.
The taste and texture of our honey products are a reflection of the diversity and seasonality of our farm. Depending on the time of year, bees are foraging “what’s flowering”, whether it’s from the meadows, pastures or our flower fields. That diversity and seasonality become reflected in each jar.
We’ve been harvesting honey for years, so it was time to offer our customers something a little different. That’s where the creamed honey comes in, it’s honey with an unexpected smoothness and no mess! It’s made with a specialized machine we imported from Poland. It gently stirs the honey once an hour for 15 minutes, over 36 hours. The honey is left raw and unpasteurized.
We infuse the flavours during the creaming process. Organic cinnamon for our cinnamon swirl honey, freeze-dried fruit for fruit-infused honey and cocoa for our creamy chocolate honey.
Your products taste amazing. Where do you get your flavour inspiration from?
We get inspired by the seasons. We add raspberries at their ripest, chocolate in winter and cinnamon during fall. A spoonful of our chocolate honey in hot milk makes the best hot chocolate milk ever.
Creamed honey is a product best made during cooler weather; during summer, the honey stays liquid and refuses to crystalize. We’re working with the seasons, and that shows in our products.
Many people dream about starting a food or drinks business. How did you launch yours? What's the story behind your business?
I left my corporate job to be on the farm full time 7 years ago. My husband Mark is a teacher, and the school year aligns beautifully with beekeeping.
My dad used to keep bees and Mark picked up the beekeeping bug from him more than 20 years ago. We’ve been implementing regenerative farm practices for years and bees have
always been included in our vibrant farm ecosystem. Beekeeping as a hobby is exploding right now. On the farm Mark offers learn-to-beekeep classes as well as mentorships to those who’d like some guidance on how to keep hives of their own.
People are fascinated with bees and the happenings inside the hive. We offer bee experiences on our farm, where people can suit up and look inside a hive. The more people know about pollinators the better.
Having a diversified farm means many different species working together. The bees complimented the cut flower part of the farm. Our Summer Blossom honey reflects the variety of flowers we grow, and because we don’t use any chemicals, it’s food you can feel good about eating.
We grow flowers organically, without herbicides or pesticides for garden-inspired bouquets and arrangements and interest in locally grown flowers is increasing each year.
When you first launched your business, how did you pay for everything? How much did it cost to launch your own food business?
Cash flow on a farm is always a challenge, especially if you’re into seasonal slow food production. We’ve invested in infrastructure slowly and over time, taking small steps whenever we could. It’s certainly been a gradual process, and it is far from over. There’s still a wish list that we’re working towards.
Did you receive any help from Frontenac Business Services?
Yes, we did. The team from Frontenac Business Services is excellent to work with, and they helped us in several ways. For example, they were highly supportive when we needed to purchase the honey creamer.
Where are you now? Where is your business going?
We’re doing more and more education. Many people want to learn self-sufficiency skills, whether it’s starting seeds or keeping a family cow. We also offer strategy sessions to farmers who are just getting started or are switching from conventional farming to regenerative practices.
We want to make sure that people know where their food comes from, especially kids. This is why we are passionate about school trips. Kids are tomorrow’s decision-makers, and we need to make sure they know about ethical, regenerative farming practices.
We want to share what we’ve learned along the way with others in the hopes that they in
turn will do the same; grow food responsibly and in a way that respects all life. We’re proud that we’re a small-scale farm with a big heart, and we don’t want that to change. I don’t see us expanding, instead, we’ll focus on connecting with customers and our local community in a meaningful way by providing them with farm experiences and education as well as high-quality products.
What's so special about doing business in Frontenac
Frontenac is still a very natural part of the province, and that’s part of its appeal. We’re close to everywhere, many small towns and villages dotted with beautiful lakes, but we’re still relatively unknown. It feels very rural, private yet friendly.
Frontenac feels very unspoiled and that’s part of why we love it here so much.
Finally, do you have a checklist that you could share your top three tips to keep in mind when starting a food business? Things you wished you would have known yourself.
Knowing your customers and including them in your decision-making process is essential. There’s so much to learn from the people you’re making food for. Good relationships are the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful business.
Then, educate. In farming, we sometimes assume that people know way more than they do. There’s a thirst for knowledge, and education is critical.
Finally, people buy from people. We’re Becky and Mark, passionate about growing flowers, making honey, and running a vibrant regenerative farm. Communicate your values, and the people that those same values resonate with, will connect right back to you. It’s all about creating community.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.