Now, more than ever, I have been thinking about buying locally. Of course, normally at this time I would be attending Farmer’s Markets, seeing all the wonderful vendors, and enjoying the summer sun. Although Market’s in the conventional sense are not currently possible, I have been wondering what some of my favorite vendors in Antigonish have been up to. Here is some of what I learned in my conversation with Michael Overmars, who has adapted his business, “Overmars Gardens” to better serve his loyal buyers in the ‘Nish.
Local to Antigonish, Michael started out studying International Development at SMU. Here, he learned about sustainable livelihoods, and the concept of food sovereignty. Later on, after he finished University, Micheal became aware of permaculture. Permaculture is about how agriculture can be kept sustainable, and works to combat food insecurity by building farms, and gardens that ethically grow goods through mimicking sustainable patterns in nature to benefit humans. From here, he attended a 1 year intensive agricultural program at Fleming College in Ontario. Shortly after, an opportunity to intern at an educational farm called Everdale in Hillsburgh, Ontario, arose. A man of many talents, Micheal also obtained a Permaculture Design Certificate from Selkirk College. Through these programs, Michael learned to hone his skills to provide us the service he does today.
Michael talked about how he was lucky that the resources around him here in Antigonish are plentiful, as that is not always the case when starting a small business. His interest in agriculture was supported by his family, who Michael says have been very supportive of his journey. Michael’s father owns the beautiful land on which his garden sits, overlooking Antigonish Landing, a popular walking path near the water. Mr. Overmars also has some skills himself, which Michael said were helpful in starting up his venture.
Since the Pandemic began, Michael says that he has pivoted his business model, to focus more on online sales. As soon as the pandemic began, Michael collected emails from clients – as he pointed out “the product was already in the ground”, so there was no chance of skipping a harvest. With the physical market on hold, and product to move, he began collecting emails of his usual buyers. With no physical market on Saturday, he is freed up to do more farming, or work on other projects. Farming being a hands on business, there is more time for socializing and relaxing, which Michael has said is nice, but also a huge difference in his usual operation. With this in mind, Michael does still offer an option to visit ‘The Farmstand’! There, you can get a selection of the products Michael offers; basil, spinach, salad mixes with assorted greens, juicy tomatoes, and more – all freshly grown just a jump and a hop away from ‘The Farmstand’.
‘The Farmstand’ has been offered prior to COVID19, but due to product and scheduling, it is now open on Fridays rather than the previous date of Thursdays. If need be, there is also a self- serve pickup option available at the location on Saturdays, as Michael realized that the dates don’t work for everyone. For those interested in buying product, Michael has also begun to pilot a partnership with Vacheresse Meats in Antigonish, who have agreed to sell his veggies at their location. This opens up more avenues for people to obtain his goods while still maintaining enough time to farm them. As Michael pointed out, “it is always nice when people can buy locally”. It is true that if businesses can support eachother in that, then they would all benefit from it.
Through all the Etransfer learning curves, schedule changes, and email lists, Michael is making the best of a tough situation. He says that all of his customers have been “very patient, and make [COVID] a lot more bearable”. He hopes that through the Pandemic, new avenues will open up so that there may be more opportunities to access his goods moving forward.