Community & Current Events

Kelly Carmichael: Organic farmer

By: Ann Douglas

Photography by John Hryniuk Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by John Hryniuk

Community & Current Events

Kelly Carmichael: Organic farmer

By: Ann Douglas
Name: Kelly Carmichael
Location: Omemee, Ont.
Job: Organic farmer

"I never planned to become a farmer," says Kelly Carmichael, an organic farmer from Omemee, Ont., who raises grass-fed beef. Her résumé backs up that assertion: As recently as four years ago, Kelly was working as an art director and graphic designer for top Toronto ad agencies.

Her dream
Then everything changed for Kelly and her husband, John Purcell. "My father-in-law and mother-in-law dropped by on their way back from vacation and announced, ‘If you want to buy the farm, we're selling it,'" she recalls. The next thing they knew, they were moving with their two young sons (then ages four and one) to the country to take over the day-to-day operations.

The opportunity came with an apprenticeship of sorts: "My father-in-law comes over every day to teach John about beef farming," says Kelly.

A food activist and 13-year cancer survivor, Kelly has been learning the art of sustainable vegetable farming. The fact that she grew up in suburban Montreal doesn't daunt her in the least. "My dad raised me with the belief that if you see someone else doing it, you can do it too. So I've focused on learning along the way and seeking out knowledge."

The Carmichael-Purcell farm, Grazing Meadows, is not yet generating enough income to support the family. So Kelly moonlights as a graphic designer and art director while John teaches part-time at Trent University in Peterborough and works at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. Add parenting and volunteer work to the mix and you have a recipe for very busy lives. But Kelly wouldn't have it any other way.
"I feel rooted and connected to the world we live in, and I'm building something with my family."

Her secret
Having a mentor allows people to realize their dreams.

"People are familiar with the idea that it takes a village to raise a child," notes Eric Morse, professor of entrepreneurship at the Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ont. "But it also takes a village to raise an entrepreneur. The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is not sharing their ideas with others who can help."

Arlene Dickinson, author, entrepreneur, and star of "Dragons' Den" and "The Big Decision," agrees that creating a community is essential to achieving a dream. "You [just] need to know what type of people you need around you," she says.

And if your dream involves bringing a product to market, know what matters most to consumers. "It's good business to be representing the values of your customers," notes Lisa Lowthers of the Acadia Centre for Social and Business Entrepreneurship in Wolfville, NS.

We have lots more stories about extraordinary Canadians.
This story was originally titled "Meet the Dreamers" in the December 2013 issue.
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Community & Current Events

Kelly Carmichael: Organic farmer