Traditional farms still have an opportunity to thrive: Lomond

Cory Hurley
Published on September 5, 2013
Paul Lomond is photographed in his pumpkin patch in Little Rapids Tuesday. — Star photo by Geraldine Brophy

Part three of three

STEADY BROOK  After about 25 years in the farming business Paul Lomond believes he is leaving the agriculture industry at a strong point.

The owner of Lomond Farms, based in Steady Brook, is preparing to retire. Other than continuing with the cranberry operation, he expects this will be his last year.

Paul and Shirley Lomond operate 105 acres on three locations. They grow the likes of strawberries, raspberries, sea buckthorn, plums, high-bush berries, cranberries, carrots, cabbage, pumpkins, sweet corn, and tomatoes.

The u-pick has been the strongest point of the operation for years. It not only has attracted a considerable local market, but it generates the most profit for the farm.

He believes his vegetable production is about at a maximum, that he sells nearly every thing he grows in a season. He said there may be some room for increased production of some fruits, but sees his farm as meeting a good balance between supply and demand.

“Overall, things seem relatively pretty good,” Lomond said of the industry. “We seem to be getting more and more people out to local markets, while some of the box stores seem to be a bit more receptive than we first started, that’s for sure.”

The u-pick distributes strawberries, raspberries and pumpkins, while tomatoes and blueberries are also popular items sold directly on the farm. A supply of peas, beans and cabbage are some of the more popular items put in the local supermarkets. Lomond said his farm also supplies local markets with produce when the need arises.

There is believed to be an untapped potential in western Newfoundland when in comes to markets — a farmers market. It was attempted in Corner Brook for several years, but did not attract much in terms of vendors, especially farmers themselves. It fizzled in interest, and was discontinued this year.

Lomond acknowledged farmers markets are successful in other places, but remains skeptical about their future locally. He questions whether farmers would buy into the concept, suggesting they have their own markets established. He said it was just not worth it to pay a staff member to attend the Corner Brook market when it existed. The timing of a summer market and the harvesting of crops also don’t particularly jive, according to the farmer.

However, he said a better location than the Majestic Lawn and an established facility may produce better results.

While that market has not been profitable, getting into grocery stores has been. Despite receiving less for produce from retailers than selling it directly, Lomond said it is an opportunity to sell in bulk. However, even that comes with its downfall. He said the stores demand too much quantity at times, which can be overwhelming for local operations.

He would like to see local supermarkets sell more local produce, but understands there would have to be expansion and improvements in storage to make that work. He said it could be possible to supply the stores between six and nine months of the year, depending on the crop.

“They also have to be willing to purchase it when you have it,” he said “There also has to be some fair amount of return on it. That is a lot of the reason why many people are not into farming anymore. The returns are just not there.”

Local produce in the stores would make the customers happier, according to the farmer. He said it is better tasting and a healthier alternative.

Increasing within the restaurant business is a whole other challenge, said Lomond. With the bulk of their purchases made wholesale, it has often been just a choice of some of the private restaurants to stock up on local produce.

Meanwhile, it is age — not the business — that has the Lomonds getting out of the industry.

“It happens to us all,” he said of retirement.