For the past 10 years I have run FarmStart, a not for profit that was created to support and encourage a new generation of farmers to develop locally based, ecologically sound and economically viable agricultural enterprises. FarmStart offers flexible programs in Ontario that provide new farmers from all backgrounds with the resources, tools and support necessary to not only get their businesses off the ground, but to thrive.
I also own and manage a restaurant with my husband called Artisanale in Guelph, ON. We serve simple and delicious, handcrafted food. Everything we serve is made fresh, prepared in a French country style, using traditional and artisanal techniques that respect the flavour and beauty of seasonal and sustainable ingredients.
I have worked as a social entrepreneur for 17 years, working on ecological agriculture and community food initiatives, as well as with artisanal food producers throughout Canada and the US. Recently, I have undertaken research and lead initiatives to identify and cultivate practical impact investment strategies that could help to seed, strengthen and sustain our local food systems. I am most interested in approaches that integrate creative thinking with practical realities and systems thinking with concrete action.
Christie is providing an inspiring and refreshing alternative to the rapid increase in “Big Box” consolidated farming operations by making farming available to anyone regardless of experience, history, financial means, or formal training. She is accomplishing this by creating new succession pathways for existing and retiring farming enterprises and by removing significant access barriers that exist for individuals who lack traditional farming backgrounds, such as new immigrants and inhabitants of urban centers.
Adapting the concept of the start-up incubator to a farming context, Christie’s innovation uniquely combines land financing opportunities through co-op models of support and land acquisition opportunities that leverage under cultivated and dormant private and public land. She has built an extensive suite of resources in order to mobilize and nurture an expanding community of new farmers. With an emphasis on restorative agriculture, Christie has infused innovation in all aspects of her work, and solidified ground breaking models for success that are attracting young entrepreneurs, established farmers and new immigrants into a community of mutual commitment to ethical family farming.
Christie’s new idea is on a trajectory towards correcting the flawed infrastructures of financing, land leasing and ownership that perpetuates the continuing decline of the North American family farmer. With growing connections across Canada, the United States and Western Europe, Christie is establishing herself as a leader for small and medium scale food producers world-wide.
- Christie has developed an online avenue for farmers to participate in the movement
- Christie attended the Food, Farms, Fish, and Finance Forum in 2013
- The McConnell Foundation commissioned this report. Based on over 80 interviews with entrepreneurs, investors, sustainable food interveners, the report identifies the ways that impact investors can strategically intervene in Canada to help address enterprise-level challenges & to encourage the local, sustainable food sector to strategically seize new opportunities, develop capacity, and build resilience.