The countdown is on to Mothers Day. Because your mom is the absolute bestest person in the whole wide world and deserves to be treated accordingly, you’ve already got your card picked out, your gift wrapped, and brunch at her favourite restaurant booked… rrriiiight? [Insert winky face here] Since we know that’s the case, we won’t spend time reminding you of all the wonderful places here in York Durham Headwaters to take Mom for her special day, or all the unique gifts you can find in our diverse region to show her what she means to you. Instead, we’re taking this opportunity to shine a spotlight on our working moms who are absolutely crushing being business owners at the same time. They make being mom-trepreneurs look like a breeze—even though we know that balancing business and family is anything but. Meet the Badass Moms of YDH.
Marjo Niemi – Niemi Family Farm
In the rural village of Mount Albert is the Niemi Family Farm. Run by matriarch Marjo and her husband Peter, the descriptor of “family” farm is appropriate because the whole family is involved in the venture—and it’s a big family. Marjo and Peter have ten children! The Niemi Family Farm is a favourite destination for visitors who want a taste of idyllic farm life, and who want to bring home some of the wholesome bounty that the Niemis harvest from their land. With featured activities like private campfires and Thanksgiving on the Farm, the annual Niemi Christmas Market, a nursery and garden centre, and an on-farm store that offers up fresh produce and delectable baked goods, this family agricultural business is always bustling with activity.
But 34 years ago, Marjo and Peter were just starting out in Canada, having moved here from their native Finland. Though they did not yet know the path they would take, they did know what ambitions they wanted to fulfil. “I grew up in Finland,” Marjo recalls. “I’m a farm girl, originally, so our dream was always to have a farm and continue that tradition.” Of course, upon first arriving in Canada, a farm was a bit of a far-off goal, but little by little, and after a few homes, the Niemis realized their dream and purchased their first farm.
This initial venture, however, wasn’t quite the thriving on-farm experience that Marjo and Peter now operate in Mount Albert, which they purchased subsequently in 2015. “We were a little bit hidden at that location because we were on a smaller road,” Marjo says. “So, we started at the farmers markets. Our kids were so small at the time, just little babies. But we would go as the whole family since we all worked the farm together.”
Today, the Niemi Family Farm in Mount Albert is a working family farm, with six of the Niemis’ ten children still at home with them to help. “It’s the best thing to have the kids invested and doing this with us,” Marjo exclaims. “They’ve been working the farm all of their lives. Every child is different—their nature is different. Some are shy and some are outgoing. But with the farmers markets, since we always brought them with us, they learned to be with other people. Now they are all open, and they can talk to customers freely.”
She adds, laughing, “They’re not scared of other humans anymore.”
It’s a point of pride for Marjo just how invested her children are in the family business. She points to her youngest son as an example. “You may be tempted to think that because he’s the baby of the big family, that he’s a spoiled brat and can’t do anything,” she says. “But he’s the one who goes out to the greenhouse by himself and starts planting without asking me what he needs to know. He just knows what needs to be planted and when.”
And Marjo’s daughters have taken working on the family farm to another level. Daughter Katarina, 22, went to school to be certified in Assisted Equine Learning instruction, and now welcomes groups and individuals to the farm along with her sister to take part in the Niemi Equine Assisted Learning program. “Now she’s doing that with people who come here. They all have so many different ideas,” Marjo says.
“It’s lovely to see how they change and how they mature into young adults,” she adds. “Seeing them develop their own business ideas and plan out what they want to do is wonderful.”
If you haven’t yet been out to the Niemi Family Farm, then don’t worry, you’ve got time—Marjo has no plans on retiring anytime soon (though we think the sooner you go the better, since you’re going to fall head-over-heels in love with those traditional Finnish baked goods and fresh-made donuts!). “We’re farmers,” she states. “You don’t ever really give that up. I’m 58 now, so as long as we’re healthy, we’ll keep working. Being outdoors is the best thing for your health anyway.”
With her children working the farm alongside their parents, here’s a toast to this lovely family farm continuing on for many more generations.
Niemi Family Farm
18463 Ontario 48, Mount Albert
Story by Katherine Ryalen