You have to wonder if Shippy Spurr knew what he was getting his family into when cultivating his 62 acres in 1875, a farm whose humble beginnings can be traced back to a couple apple trees, today spanning about 1,000 acres.
Shippy sowed his seeds in Melvern Square, Nova Scotia, first hay, grain and the aforementioned apples. His son William Spurr took over in 1921, adding potatoes to the mix. His son in turn, Lawrence Spurr, stepped up in 1946, bringing in pears and strawberries. It wasn’t until 1982 that Lawrence’s sons Bill and Gordon Spurr took ownership, from whom the farm received onions, carrots and peas, as well as its present name - Spurr Brothers Farm.
Today their children run things, the fifth generation, and the first to include daughters on the lease. These are William Spurr, Katie Campbell and Lisa Jenereaux.
“We’ve always had a wide variety of products on the farm,” said Lisa. “It’s always been our philosophy to make sure we were diverse enough to mitigate a lot of our risks.”
Crops come and go, but apples, potatoes, onions and carrots remain the farm’s mainstay. It’s 1,000 acres, a figure made official with the purchase of 200 acres from a nearby farm just last year, are scattered across several properties and employ some 50 people at peak season. The expansion of their land, and especially the planting of new apple orchards, has been financed largely by the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board, certainly for as long as Lisa can remember.
“I like the Farm Loan Board because they understand farming and they’re very flexible,” she said, explaining that a single acre of apple orchard can cost $25,000-$30,000 to establish, and won’t produce apples for 2-3 years thereafter. She and her family intend to establish ten new acres in 2020 alone.
“It doesn’t take long to add up.”
But diversity isn’t enough, said Lisa. Their success has always come from looking forward, and from their willingness to adapt. They are presently working on a strategic plan for the next decade or so, considering uncertain markets, like those brought by the coronavirus, and of climate change, which might necessitate different varieties of crop, or different crops altogether. The near certainty of fiercer hurricanes might call for row covers, wind breaks, frost protection and more. Whatever comes to Spurr Brothers Farm, they won’t be caught with their pants down.
“We need to be nimble, flexible, and always looking for opportunities,” said Lisa. “We can’t keep doing the same-old-same-old. We need to stay competitive.”