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  • Norfolk Farms

Godelie Family Farm Extending to Another

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

Christine D’Hulster’s education-financing project has graduated into a full family commitment to producing quality local produce.

From left, Christine, Ashton, Audrey and Jason D’Hulster are embracing a family future together in agriculture production.

“This is where we’re meant to be,” said D’Hulster, nee Godelie, of her and husband Jason’s decision to take over from her parents Gary and Blanche. “We love the lifestyle it provides and we’re proud of what we do.

“It’s hands-on and a family commitment we do together.”

The Godelie Family Farm produce shed has become a familiar fixture on the south-east corner of the intersection of Oxford Roads 59 and 19 east of Otterville, formalized expansion of a sweet corn stand created in the late 1990s and grown as an offshoot of supporting Christine and her three siblings’ education fund.

“We built it up and then we all left,” she recalls. “My dad (Gary) was kind of like, “Now what?” He took what we started and went with it and everything else kind of spiralled off of there.”

Ultimately, Gary Godelie would transition out of tobacco and into potatoes and sweet corn as core specialties, adding lesser amounts of strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, peppers and other crops to support the stand’s operation under Blanche Godelie’s direction (“Now, that’s me,” Christine interjected) as well as bringing in additional local produce - clearly labelled to identify its origin - to broaden offerings.

Five years ago, ‘born-and-bred tobacco farmer’ Jason D’Hulster’s change in career presented an opportunity at an opportune time to explore another opportunity in agriculture by joining and helping to continue the broader Godelie family business. Inspired by NDHS’s Jeff Overeem, Christine had gone on to a career as a high school teacher, and while she remains employed in that passion as head of the tech department at Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Simcoe, she felt a pull back to her rural roots.

“It’s almost like the farm was calling me,” she admitted.

Admittedly, not even immediate family members are always able to work cohesively, and the experiment began with a one-year trial period for all involved, including father and son-in-law.

“For the most part, they get along pretty well,” laughed Christine. “They make it work.”

In fact, Gary’s habit of introducing Jason as ‘my son-in-law’ led to the new business’s moniker representing a transition five years in the making: Son-In-Law Produce Ltd.

“That’s exactly how it came about,” Christine explained.

The new company will look a lot like the old, its arrival marked semi-officially by mounting of a new sign on the produce shed. Potatoes and sweet corn will continue to be major crops, along with the addition of green beens on an expanded scale, with thrice-weekly shipments to the Toronto Food Terminal planned for 2020. A fourth farmers’ market is being added in the GTA in Mississauga, 7 a.m. till noon Sundays, to go along with Saturday from 7 a.m. till noon in Waterdown and Wednesday and Thursdays from 3-7 p.m. at Bloor and Borden, and East Lynn Park, respectively, with Gary manning the booths at each.

“He loves it, it’s his retirement dream,” said Christine. “He can go, he can interact with people.

“He’s proud of the business and proud of the products.”

Gary still finds his way out to the fields, but the family transition will allow both he and wife Blanche to pick their spots rather than being responsible first in a rural version of retirement, enhanced by family continuity in a business built quite literally from the ground up.

A potential third generation is already more than waiting in the wings, Audrey (12) and Ashton (9) D’Hulster growing their own herbs and onions respectively, for the various market outlets, quizzing their grandpa about sales upon his return.

“Both kids definitely have an interest,” said Christine. “Ashton loves getting dirty and getting out there and Audrey enjoys the entrepreneurial side and getting to know our customers.”

Balancing two careers may be a familiar if demanding approach for modern farm families, but Christine sees hers at least as related through connection to community. As a teacher, she is preparing students for their futures, as a farmer, she enjoys producing locally sourced, grown and supporting produce, a passion and mindset helping her and her family move forward.

“It helps us get up every day and makes each and every task we have to accomplish have deeper meaning and connectedness to a greater purpose.”

Admittedly, this year has brought unique challenges and obstacles well beyond the agricultural norm.

“Didn’t think 2020 would be this overwhelming,” Christine laughed, doubling down however, on the rightness of their actively farming return home.

“I never thought I’d be back here, that’s for sure,” she concluded. “But we’re here loving it, living the dream.” 

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