It all started with a knock on their door.
“I was in my barn, tending to my animals, and someone showed up and asked when the business would be reopening,” said Kris Sookhoo, who was born and raised on a farm in Trinidad and immigrated to Canada with her family when she was 16.
“At first, I told them the feed business was closed and the former owners of the farm had moved, but they came knocking again. A lot of people were coming here looking for feed, because I guess the previous owners had sold it in the community. We decided to wait a couple weeks until we could order some feed, and then we opened our doors.”
What began as the spontaneous purchase of a 19-acre farm on the border of Chelmsford and Valley East in June turned into a fully fledged business that was up and running just over three months later.
Sookhoo and David Bertholet have become the accidental co-owners of KD Farm & Feed, located at 3353 Regional Rd., Highway 15 in Chelmsford.
KD sells a wide range of products, including animal feed, grains, dairy products, and farm accessories. They have become brokers for brand names like Floradale, Pestell, and B-W Feed & Seed.
“We sell animal feed for pigs, horses, rabbits, goats, chickens, and more. We offer all different kinds of grains like corn and barley. We do dairy products, and miscellaneous items like rabbit feeders and different farming equipment that people might need,” said Sookhoo.
“We just started out, so we are slowly getting there.”
On top of their product line, Sookhoo said that their first goal is excellent customer service. KD is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The business also offers delivery services, and Sookhoo’s cellphone number is posted on her door in case of emergencies during after-hours.
Although they started selling to customers on Aug. 5, they celebrated their official grand opening earlier this month.
The grand opening was so successful, in fact, that they welcomed 150 to 200 community members to their farm over the course of the day, and they were forced to break up the visitors into small groups to follow public health guidelines put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“The grand opening was amazing. I was surprised at what a big turn out we had. Luckily, the farm is big, so we separated everyone into small groups – we had groups riding horses, visiting the pigs, visiting the birds, and having food and drinks,” said Sookhoo.
“A lot of people from the community showed up. We have their full support and they encouraged us to stay in the business.”
Although Sookhoo grew up on a farm, she admits that she knew nothing about farming when she decided to move up north. She had spent her whole career working for the Government of Canada in the immigration field.
Bertholet knew nothing about farming as well – during the day he is employed as an underground mining instructor at NORCAT.
“I took my retirement and moved up here with my fiancé David. The whole farming thing is actually new to both of us, but with the help of the community, we are growing,” said Sookhoo.
The couple decided to move up north this summer while Sookhoo was living in Brampton, and Bertholet, who is from Elliot Lake, was temporarily staying in Guelph to care for his mother.
Initially, they rented the property from the former owners, but that changed quickly.
“We definitely didn’t go into this thinking that we were going to start a retail business. There was a farm up here that was for sale, and we thought we’d come and check it out and, eventually, we decided to buy it,” said Bertholet, who added that they are finalizing the purchase of the farm right now.
“People were constantly stopping by, and we’d gotten ourselves some pigs and chickens, and we’re boarding a couple of horses. One thing led to another and here we go. We decided to give it a shot and see how things go, and it’s been terrific so far.”
Since opening, the community has rallied behind the couple, and they have a lot of local families going to the farm to volunteer their services, helping to care for the animals.
To reciprocate, the couple has been listening attentively to the community’s needs, and they are hoping to provide services and products that will help local farmers. For example, they quickly noticed that one of the biggest complaints is that the community does not have a veterinarian that can treat farm animals.
“I already put an ad out there for a vet to come to our community. That’s something that we want here, and I am willing to provide a rental spot for the vet to come to our location, and help them start up,” said Sookhoo.
Another thing they’ve noticed is that many farmers in the community are struggling to access abattoirs to slaughter their animals, because according to Bertholet, they are “overbooked.”
“There are a lot of hobby farmers or individual farmers in our area – I think there are at least 150. Since COVID, everything has been backed up. Maybe we need the government to take a look at that situation and start helping some people out,” he said.
“There are definitely some things going on. We’re learning. What a great community, though. They are a great bunch of people, and it’s been really fun since we started.”
For more information on KD Farm & Feed, visit their website at www.kdfarmandfeed.com.
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star