Don’t let her diminutive size and quiet voice fool you. Kelsie Armstrong is a seasoned entrepreneur. We’ve watched her grow up, starting a vegetable business twelve years ago with her brother Cody when she was in grade two. The pair grew ten acres of sweet corn, five acres of pumpkins and another acre of assorted vegetables including squash, cucumbers and gourds. Sales began from a humble farm stand and soon extended to a market booth, eventually supplying corn and pumpkins at Sobeys. Kelsie has continued the market garden business with help from her family since Cody left two years ago for Guelph University.
At the age of nine, Kelsie was looking to expand their farm business to include livestock. Not dairy cattle, like her parents and grandparents- she was looking for animals she could handle. Her first choice was goats, but her parents weren’t keen. She soon acquired her first sheep. At first, the sheep operation was a joint venture, but two years into the business, Kelsie bought out her brother so she could go it alone. She now manages a flock of 60 breeding ewes which have delivered 64 lambs this season. The flock is a mix of Dorset and Rideau Arcott, and she sells the market lambs at local sale barns. She times the breeding to coincide with peak demand for the growing ethnic markets, at Christmas and Easter.
Kelsie also shows her sheep in competitions, supported by her connections with the local 4H club. On August 5th, the Peterborough Agricultural Society held two of their annual livestock competitions at Kawartha Downs after failing to come to an arrangement with the city to use Morrow Park. The sheep show is specifically for youth exhibitors. Kelsie took the prize for Grand Champion Showperson.
Kelsie will be cutting back her farm operations soon as she follows her brother’s lead and heads to Guelph this month to study. It’s likely that her departure from the farm will be temporary: she is firmly committed to a career in agriculture. Many of her fellow students will also come equipped with farming experience, but how many of them will be able to boast running a successful agricultural business for more than a decade? Not many, I’ll bet. KG