Cory and Heidi Van Groningen
By Pat Grotenhuis
Working to improve the quality of beef cattle they raise and helping with the family meat business keep the winners of Ontario’s 2012 Outstanding Young Farmers’ Award busy.
Cory and Heidi Van Groningen met at the University of Guelph and after completing their educations, married and bought a farm. They have built that farm up at the same time as they have been working in Cory’s family retail business (selling beef and other local products) and raising a family. To recognize the work the couple has done, they were featured in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page was sponsored by RBC Royal Bank.
They purchased their farm after marrying in 2004. “It all happened pretty quickly. We decided to buy a farm, and then there we were, fencing by moonlight in October,” says Cory.
At school, Cory studied Agricultural Business while Heidi studied Animal Science. They graduated in 2000, with Heidi working for a dairy and beef research facility after graduation and Cory returning to the University of Guelph to complete a Master’s degree, with a focus on agricultural economics and animal science.
“We had talked about buying a farm and having the opportunity to raise a family there was a big part of our decision to buy,” says Cory.
Cory is now in charge of marketing, finance and sales at the family business plus managing the farm, while Heidi manages their two staff and raises the couple’s three young girls, Brooke (5), Hailey (3) and Ruth (2).
To raise a superior beef animal, they are involved in research projects with the University of Guelph on meat tenderness, quality and animal genetics. Finding out what their customers want is very important to them.
“For us, we can see the production right from the farm through to the consumer and we get to talk to our customers on a regular basis,” says Cory.
The meats from VG Meats in Simcoe have won awards at the Ontario Finest Meat Competition, held every two years. The family works hard to ensure the customers are happy with the product. They have strict production guidelines.
“If we don’t have a good explanation for using the product, we don’t. We use sustainable practices which we can explain to the customer,” says Cory.
To protect the environment, there is an alternative land use project underway at Cory’s parents’ farm which returns a designated area to its original habitat. Both farms also have environmental farm plans which strive to improve the environment on and around the farm.
Cory and Heidi expand their passion for agriculture and their local community by taking part in many groups and organizations. Cory is the Vice President of the Haldimand Cattleman’s Association, treasurer of the Ontario Independent Meat Processors’ Association, on the advisory council for Conestoga College Institute of Food Processing Technology, and on the Board of Directors for Beef Improvement Ontario. Heidi teaches Sunday School at church where Cory is also actively involved.
The couple is happy with the decision they made to buy a farm after their wedding.
“We get to live our dream,” says Heidi.
To view a video interview with this couple, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPHtWE14Jdc&list=PLxl8ycqu125d-iqsZFnv_CxGVT7NAgDDc