August 25, 2020
Marc Schurman of Atlantic Grown Organics is passionate about two things at Schurman Family Farm -- making things work and doing things no one else is. "Graduating with my B.Sc. in Plant Science, I was interested in biology and caring for an organic crop,” he says. “Organic farming was in its infancy in P.E.I. when we got started. It was the challenge that attracted me.”
Growth at his Kensington farm, also operated by his wife Krista and their three children, has been dynamic. Acreage doubled in 2015 and 2017, with another acre added in 2019. This year, he installed LED fixtures in his greenhouses to grow more produce in winter months and new packing equipment to improve efficiency. Some $800,00 in federal and provincial funding provided a Herz biomass system creating 100 percent renewable heating that is significantly more efficient.
Schurman's experience managing a large greenhouse in Mexico prompted by the impact of the 2008 recession resulted in a new and valuable perspective. His current relationship with P.E.I.'s Food Island Partnership is providing another defining moment. "It's helped us leverage our strengths and refine our focus. Our management team needed to be strategically aligned, so FIP helped us hire a business coach and make a number of improvements. It's not an investment I could have made without their assistance.”
With an eye on the future, Atlantic Grown Organics has made forays into the Montreal, Toronto, and New England markets, but Schurman considers his home market his best market. In 2019, he refocused on local customers, launching new products at their request to better penetrate the market.
That decision proved fortuitous with the sudden impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “People need to eat, so we've been very lucky. We've had direct access to customers through our online store, our weekly veggie boxes, the Schurman Farm Stand, and re-emerging farmers markets." Atlantic Grown Organics vegetables are also available at Atlantic Superstore and Sobeys.
Schurman remains optimistic about the future. “Organics is a feel-good proposition. There's immense satisfaction seeing our veggies harvested and sent to customers knowing we ensured they're the safest, most wholesome vegetables possible. We don’t use chemicals other producers use, so we're compelled to be more inventive, more experimental, and take more risks. The reward is fresh delicious produce harvested every day on our neighbours' tables.”
By Magner Ink (www.magnerink.com). This is one in a series of articles on the P.E.I. Food Cluster.