A seed planted by a school project has grown into a full-blown business in South Porcupine. And the community is reaping the benefits of healthy food.
Becky Lefebvre is a full-time school secretary at St. Joseph School. She recently opened The Urban Farm at 119 Crawford St. in South Porcupine. The business blossomed following a successful project.
“It started off as an experiment with the kids,” she said. “We, a couple of summers ago, did planter boxes with our oldest and the rest of the children in our blended family. We started doing planter boxes and we brought it to the Downtown Urban Market a couple of summers ago.
“And then last summer, we were looking for a project. As opposed to selling lemonade on the street, we decided to go to local farms, pick up some produce and bring it home. It kind of really flew.”
After seeing how popular the fresh produce was with residents, she decided to take the next big step.
“We had purchased the building a year prior to that,” Lefebvre said. “We weren’t really sure what we were going to do with the building once we purchased it. But in the process of renovations, with neighbours walking by and telling us the history of the building, they told us it used to be a Co-op Store 40-something years ago.
“With the mini-project we had over the summer and the history of the building, we decided why not start selling some really great food in a small community. We are market goers ourselves. We do enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables, and good quality. So bringing it to South Porcupine was the next step.”
Much of the food sold at The Urban Farm is produced locally.
“We definitely work with farms in the community,” she explained. “We have farm-quality meats, some of it’s from here in the area and some of it comes from Southern Ontario. But it is definitely farm fresh. We have eggs. We’ve got the greens from Borealis Fresh Farms. We have a variety of produce that right now, because the season is off, we are distributing from a supplier. We are working with some of the local farms this summer, Al Graham being one of them, to bring in some fresh produce grown in our community.”
Some items have been particularly popular with local shoppers.
“We have preserves that we cannot keep on the shelf,” she said. “The peaches, the pears, the eggs, and the dill pickles, they are delicious. We have all kinds of deli meats as well, the pepperettes and dried meats. The baked goods are very popular as well. “For the baking, the Mennonite community in Val Gagne help us and we are working with some of the other local bakeries as well.”
The business is rooting in a personal belief that serving farm fresh food is the best option.
“I believe that good quality food is really important,” Lefebvre said. “My partner (Steve) and I have four kids and we see a huge difference when we feed them their fruits and their vegetables. Even for our own health with the farm fresh meats and the lack of hormones and everything else. We’re quite passionate about that.”
Store staff enjoy working at The Urban Farm and their interaction with the community.
“The thing we love the most about having this little store is it’s bringing everyone together,” she said. “The best part about our Saturday afternoon when we’re in the store is when you see people who haven’t seen each other in five years come together in this tiny little room. And they go ‘oh my goodness, I haven’t seen you in such a long time. How are you.’
“The food brings people together and we’re really proud of that.”
Even though she works full time, Lefebvre has brought plenty of energy to the business.
“This is my hobby, this is my playtime, this is for fun,” she said. “It started off as a little fun thing we did with the kids and it grew into this. The community has really been involved. I can’t thank everyone enough.”
The Urban Farm is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed Sundays.