PORT SYDNEY - Two and a half years ago Ali and Dan Gamble were looking for a new life adventure when they moved their 30 chicken flock from the Newmarket suburbs to Muskoka.
About two years prior to the move the couple also swapped their commercial printing business for raising chickens and selling eggs.
“Dan and I met in the print industry in Markham .... we eventually bought a place in Queensville as we wanted to raise our son in the country and Dan wanted to get chickens. I said no the first year,” Ali admits.
Eventually, however, she agreed to start with five chickens, the following year her flock grew to 30.
“We found that there were all these different breeds,” explains Ali.
Dan adds that people were also buying their eggs.
“We had a little fridge that we put out on our front porch, and I made a post on Facebook that we were selling eggs. Down in Newmarket no one really has backyard chickens. It totally took off and we couldn’t keep up with the demand,” she said.
At that time their printing business began to take second place as the couple was beginning to lose interest in their old industry.
“There were times when we were waiting for print clients to pay us, and there would be $50 in the egg jar and that was what we had for groceries,” Ali said.
The Gambles are not 100 per cent sure when they made the decision to start a farm but they researched for months and looked for farm mentors prior to diving in.
“We never did farming as we both grew up in the suburbs,” said Dan.
The couple wrote a business plan and decided to settle their farm in Muskoka. It would take them six months to find the perfect property in Port Sydney.
Originally they wanted a market garden but realized that the growing season is much different in Muskoka than further south.
“But we had the eggs going and I wanted to go and do farmers markets and then I approached the Muskoka North Good Food Co-Op to see if they would sell eggs, and they did,” she said.
The couples new business really took off in the fall of 2017 when Ali reached out to Darcy Bullock and asked if Independent in Huntsville would be willing to sell their eggs. Bullock told her that if they can keep up with demand he would carry their eggs.
“And that started becoming our thing even thought we were totally new to this,” she said.
Since then the Gambles have carved local egg distribution into the Muskoka corporate grocery store world.
Gamble Farm eggs can now be found at the local Muskoka Metro, Sobeys, Independent, Foodland, etc.
“I think we are in about 29 locations across Muskoka,” said Ali.
“In such a short period of time it has been cool to network as much as we have.”
Gamble Farm has 100 hens, and they work with other local egg farms to be able to meet their distribution supply. Today the Gambles supply 250 dozen eggs a week to various outlets.
Fifty meat chickens were also added to their products this year as well as duck eggs which can also be found at local grocery stores.
“Now that there is an egg grading station in Huntsville we are hoping that we can work together ... I’ve got the distribution and he has the grading station,” said Ali.
They are working on creating a co-operative of local egg farmers to create a local supply chain.
They are also looking to expand their farm by adding a new building which would house a production facility with loading docks to meet their supply and demand accordingly as they are also looking into expanding their supply into Toronto locations.
Local community, however, remains where the Gambles like to focus on.
In September the Huntsville BIA donated funds raised at this year’s Craft Beer Festival to Gamble Farm. Gamble Farm is in turn supplying the Table Food Bank with 30 dozen eggs a week for a year.
“We love it here, and we are all better as a collective because it’s a win win for the community,” she said.
Looking to raise chickens and possibly join the Gamble Farm egg distribution network email firstname.lastname@example.org.