Justin Williams, Wilhome Farm
By Andrew Campbell
Bloomfield – When you think of a typical high school student, you might think about someone who spends time sleeping in, cramming for exams or practicing to make a school team. But what about starting a new business? It may not be common, but Justin Williams of Wilhome Farm in Prince Edward County is anything but ordinary.
At the young age of 11, Justin took his interest in a friend’s family maple syrup business home to his parents’ farm. He was sure he could also produce high quality maple syrup. Together with 25 maple trees and the help of a neighbour who let the young entrepreneur borrow a sap boiler, ‘Justin’s Maple Syrup’ was born.
More than a decade later, Justin, now 24, taps 500 trees each year, uses a vacuum system to bring the sap through the forest to his sugar shack and has upgraded his boiler several times. Today, he’s producing 500 litres of maple syrup annually and typically sells out of his supply. When he’s at peak production, he’s often assisted in the sugar shack by his “Nana” and other members of his family.
For Justin, producing a high quality product comes naturally. Raised on his family dairy farm, his dad and grandpa instilled in him a passion for environmental stewardship and caring for their cows.
“Every day is different on the farm, and that is one of the things I love about it,” Justin says. “I can go from working out in the fresh spring air gathering sap to make maple syrup, to the dairy barn to feed the cows and milk them. Add in the challenges and the need to be consistently improving and I’m happy to make my future here.”
A brand new barn for the herd’s young heifers (female cows that have not yet had calves) was the latest construction project on the farm and has really helped improve the comfort of the new calves.
Working alongside his parents and grandparents, Justin is excited about his future in farming. “Farming is what my family has done for generations and I couldn’t be happier that I’m the eighth generation on our family farm.” Justin’s ancestors settled there in 1814. Through hard work and care for their land and livestock, the farm remain the core of his family’s way of life.
Justin likes to share his stories from the farm and is a big fan of using social media to help him do that. “Talking about what we do on our farm is important to help consumers realize the work, passion and care that goes into every product that leaves the farm. Whether it be talking about it on Twitter, blogging about it, or even creating a YouTube video, social media is a way that I can reach a customer and they can reach me if they have any questions.”
Justin’s also one of a group of 10 young Ontario farmers sharing day to day experiences from their farms through the newly created Dinner Starts Here on-line initiative (www.dinnerstartshere.ca)
Justin is looking forward to the years ahead on his farm, working in the dairy barn and in the maple bush. “On the syrup side I look forward to making constant improvements to my business to make things more efficient and easier to do. On the dairy side, the increasing amount of technology that can be used for record keeping and even milking makes it an exciting business to be a part of.”
You can follow Justin on twitter at @justo_williams or on Facebook by searching Justin’s Maple Syrup.