Family-owned Dempsey Farms, at 270 Dempsey St. in Innisfil, is starting a new community garden in hopes of bringing local residents together again while providing access to healthy foods.
Situated off Lake Simcoe facing Bayview Beach, the property carries a long history stemming back to the early 1920s and was originally purchased by George Dempsey over 35 years ago, who was instrumental in the development of many cottages along Dempsey Street after the acquisition.
Rory Dempsey (George Dempsey’s great grandson) now runs the farm with help from his mother, Colleen Dempsey. The farm has been a staple in the community and surrounding cottages for fresh farm eggs and visits with the farm’s "residents" and specializes in ethically raised animals while offering a variety of pastured meats including chicken, pork, beef, and turkey.
Originally from Toronto, Rory refers to himself as a city boy who decided to try his hand at operating the farm just shy of four months ago. He started reading books about farming, learning everything he could about regenerative agriculture and sustainable farm systems, and shares he just "really enjoyed everything" and decided to make a business out of farming.
“I just wanted the change and liked the idea of coming back where the family had some history,” notes Rory, who now resides in one of the family cottages beside the farm. “I got six egg-laying chickens last year and the next day went back and got six more – that was my first agricultural experience. I loved getting the fresh eggs [and] began giving them to neighbours and friends.”
The farm is currently home to 84 chickens and a rescue duck named Fred, a miniature Shetland pony, several Tamworth pigs, and three Highland cows (Scottish breed) including the farm’s newest beast Mary, who is a few weeks pregnant.
The farm’s iconic barn (the logo for Dempsey Farms) used to host movie nights, bingo, and live music/bands where anyone in the community could attend.
“This was the place people would drop the kids off and come have a good time,” remembers Rory.
But then, the farm sat dormant for 35 years.
“[We’re] trying to get the community back together through the garden, and hopefully be able to start some of the events again for the area,” says Colleen, who resides in Toronto but comes up to the farm weekly to help Rory.
The new community garden will be approximately 2,500 square feet right behind the farm’s roadside market stand, and members of the community can pay between $10 to $20 depending on the plot size.
“Whoever wants to be a part of this can just drop by the farm and put their name on the list,” explains Rory.
He adds the farm is currently under land construction where many of the property’s trees and overgrown bush will be cleared out for expansion of the project while creating more space for the farm animals.
The farm continues to host daily tours (both in-person and virtually) while renovating the property in preparation for more community events again.
“All depending on COVID, I guess,” Rory laughs.
In the meantime, Rory enjoys refurbishing items to create temporary shelters for the animals, such as re-purposing an old ice hut for shade for their miniature pony, ‘CJ’.
“We don’t like throwing stuff in the landfill,” says Colleen, noting the John Deere sign Rory added on the farm’s portable chicken ‘tractor’.
To learn more about Dempsey Farms, visit www.dempseyfarms.ca or follow them on Facebook under “Dempsey Farms”.