‘Retirement’ project adds beef to Godelie family farming resume
Updated: May 10
Most retirement advertisements feature seniors on a beach, in a condo, or perhaps living out of a fifth-wheel trailer, relaxing over shuffleboard, cards and a hot tub somewhere in Florida
Instead of choosing one of those options, Gary Godelie decided to launch his third major farming initiative, founding The Good Beef Company in conjunction with wife Blanche.
“Because I want to and I can,” explained the 70-year-old, who had a few beef cattle when the couple was first married. “Having some fun.”
Gary and Blanche were both ‘born and raised’ in tobacco, continuing that tradition as sharegrowers beginning in 1979. They went on to purchase their home farm at Brown’s Corners, south-east of the intersection between Oxford Road 59 and Otterville Road. Beginning to see the writing on the wall for the tobacco industry, what began as a corn stand supporting their children’s university education was expanded, with potatoes added as a second major crop.
“It grew from there to what we put together over the last few years,” says Gary.
Their original roadside corn-on-the-cob stand transitioned into a small shed and eventually into the larger permanent Godelie Family Farm building, a popular area destination for a wide variety of farm-fresh produce. Many represented the wide diversity grown on-site, others were clearly identified as coming from other local producers. Concurrently, Gary participated in two GTA-based ‘my pick’ farmer’s markets, so named because those with booths there had to have grown what they were selling themselves.
“I liked that.”
That evolved existing business was subsequently taken over by their daughter Christine and son-in-law Jason D’Hulster, under the Son-In-Law Produce brand. Prepared to step back from the constant pressure and long hours their chosen lifestyle had demanded - “I’ve had enough my whole life,” - Gary was nonetheless not ready to put his feet up and binge-watch streaming services.
“As farmers, some have hobbies, but I didn’t, my hobby was farming. I had to find or create something and this is what I thought I’d do.”
Relocated a short tractor drive across Oxford Road 59 to a 100-acre property on the north side of Otterville Road, he fenced in six-and-a-half acres of pasture and invested in a small cattle and farmer-friendly barn designed for operational ease.
“I didn’t want to have to start using a pitchfork,” Godelie smiled.
He credits NORPAC’s Matthew Heleniak for supporting his sourcing of four red Limousin-cross breeding cattle and a rent-a-bull, a modest starter herd supplanted with local stockers. They are fed sweet corn silage reclaimed from Jason and Christine’s production acreage.
After the premium cobs are picked for fresh sale and the stalks have dried down, “we go in and harvest it.”
Supplements from Norwich Feeds completes the triumvirate of strong genetics, corn-fed beef feeding program and facility creature comfort.
“It all comes together to create a quality product to bring to the marketplace,” said Godelie. “The intent is to produce a high-quality well-marbled triple-A or better product at a reasonable price.”
Good Beef Company sales are accomplished through word of mouth, in a seasonal Saturday on-farm market and through the Bloor Street Annex market in downtown Toronto Gary had attended for 17 years, as well as the Lakeview Farmer’s Market in Mississauga.
“It’s all about the people,” says Gary, who has always enjoyed the face-to-face, direct marketing aspect of farmers’ markets. “To me, it’s more personal than what we see in big box stores.”
Ribeye steaks are among his big sellers from a standard range of offerings upsold via family connection to son-in-law Jean Paul Mooney of JP’s Barbecue and Catering. Smoked brisket, sliced thin and vacuum packed, has also proven a highly-popular Good Beef Company option.
“He does an amazing job in that regard,” credits Gary of a ‘fast food done right’ approach thawed and dropped inside the package into a light boil for seven minutes. “Open it up and you’ve got a hot brisket meal.”
Godelie’s ‘retirement’ also includes growing their own hay, corn and soybean cropping and two or three acres of garlic production, some for the fresh market, the balance dried and ground into flavourful one-ingredient powder. “I have people say they use it on everything.”
Gary also hosts and assists a granddaughter’s summer project, growing sunflowers and gladiolas for sale at market and the road in front of their farm. The presence of a hired helper in the summer allows for balance in their approach, commitment while not being tied to it,
Gary driving this operation rather being driven as he has in the past.
“It was a lot,” he recalled, pleased to have more options and choice, but still a form of farming he can gain pleasure and satisfaction from.
“We’ve been active our whole life,” he summed up in conclusion. “This morning and every morning, it pulls me out of the house. I look forward to getting out and seeing the animals and doing the chores. It is a commitment, but it’s not hard work or stressful.
“I thought some day I’d like to get back into it, and here we are.”