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How LGBTQ2+ Farmers Jeanette & Katie are connecting Sustainability & Livestock in Peterborough

Tipsy Willow Farms, located in Indian River, Ontario, is a sustainable farm designed to offer ethical and healthy products to Peterborough and surrounding communities. Tipsy Willow Farms founders Jeanette Heffernan and Katie Sherratt began their venture in late 2018 and have now grown it into a haven for sustainable farming practices. 

”I created Tipsy Willow Farms in late 2018 with my mom,” explains Jeanette. “I had just returned from travelling and when I came home there was a flock of 160 sheep for sale. I went to the bank, got the loan and Tipsy Willow Farms was born.”

After meeting Katie in 2019, Tipsy Willow Farms has continued to expand. Today, Katie and Jeanette have a menagerie of animals including water buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and ducks. Driven by their desire to create sustainable farming practices, Katie and Jeanette apply an eco-conscious spin to traditional farming methods. 

“We recently just switched back to the home farm, after spending the first few years on my parent’s property,” says Jeanette. “Once I met Katie, we were able to scale the business to include more markets, virtual markets and direct-to-customer sales.”

“One of our primary goals for the farm is to educate our community on the feasibility of sustainable farming,” says Katie. “We love the farm-to-table model and take great pride in connecting people to their food and where it comes from. We created our Meat Box program in 2020 to help bring that connection to our community and raise awareness about the eco-conscious methods we use at Tipsy Willow.”

As part of their holistic farming methods, Katie and Jeanette sell their meat to both sales barn wholesalers and direct to consumers. “We are best known for our fresh meats and quality product,” says Katie. “And our Instagram,” jokes Jeanette, “it’s really connected with people, they find it funny.”

One of the highlights of what makes Tipsy Willow Farms unique is Katie and Jeanette themselves. “We have a real gap in farming,” explains Jeanette. “Young, female farmers are very underrepresented, especially in livestock farmers. We are hoping to change that perception and educate young women who might be interested in farming than it is possible. As two under-40, female, gay farmers, we are really working hard to turn the notion of what a “traditional farmer” looks like on its’ head.”

Jeanette and Katie’s partnership is built on a foundation that plays to their unique sets of strengths. “Jeanette does the farming and I sell the product,” explains Katie. “We’ve really sort of found our groove and it works for us.”

One of the primary ways that Katie and Jeanette interact with community members is through their Meat Box program. “Our goal is to create a first-person relationship with as many of our customers as possible,” explains Katie. “This means that we are involved in as many elements of our Meat Box program as possible.”

Subscribers to the Tipsy Willows Farm Meat Box Program can select their own custom meat box based on their preferences and budget. Subscribes pick their preferences and the boxes are assembled and delivered by Katie and Jeannette. “We like to offer a one-stop shop for local products through our Meat Box program,” says Katie. “We offer add-ons from other local makers like cheese, coffee, kombucha.” 

The sustainability of their farm is critical to Jeanette and Katie which is why they have created a number of different methods to be as eco-conscious as possible. “We have designed our processes with as minimal waste as possible,” says Jeanette. “We use all of the by-products from our animals – we even have a skincare line!”

When asked what the Peterborough community has done for their business, Katie and Jeannette explain their gratitude for their local buyers. “In order to create a local, sustainable farm business, local support is critical. When we can sell our products to our local community, it allows us to be as environmentally friendly as possible.”

“Peterborough, especially in the summer, is a thriving hub for local businesses and markets,” says Katie. “Our customer base in Peterborough and the Kawarthas has been so supportive, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

For more information about where to buy Tipsy Willow Farms products, visit their website or social media.

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