Tom Sasvari with files from
EVANSVILLE—The partnership just reached between Mike Meeker and Meeker’s Aguaculture with the British Columbia-based Blue Goose Cattle company will provide not only bring benefits to the local business, but also to other cattle and organic foods-based businesses the company is working with on Manitoulin Island.
“For years now I’ve had lots of people approach me wanting to invest in this business, but I have never liked what they said or the plans they had,” Mr. Meeker told the Recorder, “but Blue Goose has the same goals as me, looking at ways to benefit the island while also making a living. I have been waiting for a company to come along like this and we’re now working with Blue Goose in a partnership. I’ve signed on with them in a partnership for 20 years so that I can continue the labour of love and grow my business, one project at a time.”
Mr. Meeker explained with Blue Goose, “I had decided the only way to make my goals become reality is to get involved with a company that has the resources and money that a company like Blue Goose has, which will allow me to move my business forward.”
“It was important that the company (Blue Goose) has the best interest of the Island at heart and I definitely believe they do,” continued Mr. Meeker. “I believe I’ve found a company I can work with and make good things happen that I’ve been trying to do for years.”
“Local businesses investing and working with Blue Goose will also provide a big plus for the beef farmers on the Island,” added Mr. Meeker.
“Blue Goose is a company designed in producing a clean protein,” Mr. Fraser explained. “We started in BC and now have over one million acres.” Manitoulin is Blue Goose’s first venture into Ontario, with 1,100 acres purchased so far and almost 200 head of cattle on the grass. Most of these are the popular black angus breed.
“We purchase these farms and put cattle on them,” Mr. Fraser continued. “They are natural, no hormones, steroids or fertilizers, and certified organic, nothing but what God put on this earth. It’s a vertically integrated system, our own cow-calf, finishing, abattoir and distribution systems.”
“We also practice the (Global Animal Partnership) six-step animal husbandry program,” Mr. Fraser added. “These steps are: no crates, no cages no crowding; enriched environment; enhanced outdoor access; pasture centred; bred for outdoors; and bred for an entire life on the same farm.”
“Manitoulin has a long history of cattle production and we want to revitalize that,” Mr. Fraser explained. “We love the Island and want to invest in it and its people. We’are always looking for good property throughout the Island.”
Mr. Fraser said that once land is purchased, a study will be undertaken to find out what needs to be done (repairs, environmental issues) before cattle are pastured.
“The people, the geography, good farmland and water—you can’t have good farmland without good water,” Mr. Fraser said of reasons why Blue Goose chose Manitoulin for its foray into Ontario.
Mr. Fraser said Blue Goose is so passionate about what it does, it is currently in its second round of corporate funding for the Dundee Corporation, a majority stakeholder in the company, which has enabled it to expand not only its land purchases, but branch into the world of aquaculture as well, hence the partnership with Meeker’s Aquaculture and Meeker’s Magic Mix, in Evansville.
Blue Goose hopes to take the aquaculture side of the business to a new level. “When we came here looking for ranches, we had heard about Mike and wanted to meet him,” Mr. Fraser explained. “Philosophically, we’re both on the same sheet of music.”
“We are passionate about what we’re doing,” Mr. Fraser, a retired army general, explained. “We have great passion and respect for the animals and for the environment. This Island is superb and we believe in its people and investing in Manitoulin as a whole.”
He noted that Blue Goose’s Manitoulin venture probably would not have become a reality of it wasn’t for the Manitoulin Island Community Abattoir in Providence Bay. “It’s a major factor in why we moved here,” Mr. Fraser said. “Having an abattoir is so much better for animal husbandry.” Four employees have been hired so far, including Gore Bay farmer Jim Martin as Blue Goose’s Manitoulin cow boss.
“We’re going to continue to buy as much property as we can to maximize cattle production on Manitoulin,” Mr. Fraser said. “This is such a great place, and I don’t just mean for fish and hunting and cottaging. This is about being good neighbours and we’re here for the long term.”
“I’m looking forward to growing more fish, and expanding the compost project to get into markets that I haven’t been able to previously with this top line product,” said Mr. Meeker. “I want to expand the liquid part of the compost product and hit specific markets, but on my own I don’t have enough hours to get in touch with all the contacts I need to nationally, but now with Blue Goose I will have all the resources needed. For example, I’ve been working five years to get organic certification for my fish, being on a national committee on this, and the standards are now being recognized by the government, that we are marketing the best product on the market. Blue Goose has the connections to get people to see that. They have marketing guy to allow me to move a lot more of my fish products in different market areas. I know I’ve lost sales over the years not being able to follow up on a lot of opportunities concerning organic fish, and in compost, this is a very specific product and hitting the right markets is so important, that is where Blue Goose will benefit so much.”
Blue Goose, “recognize the public wants to know where there food comes from and what goes into it and that it be a good, clean product,” said Mr. Meeker.
“One of the biggest things for me is I have no intention of retiring, I will be in this business until the day I die, and now I through this partnership I will be able to work with Blue Goose to promote and expand my business and the products we produce, and market it to a larger market.”
“And we will be able to create more jobs, by expanding our projects one project at a time,” added Mr. Meeker, noting he is in charge of the fish operations and has shares in Blue Goose.
“We will be expanding our staff shortly, we intend to expand our fish production right away, in a carefully, slow way. I won’t be growing more fish on my current sites, but be looking at other sites,” continued Mr. Meeker.
“From my perspective I’ve worked with Dave (Fraser) and I’m hugely impressed with him,” said Mr. Meeker. “He is honest and straight forward.” The company is made up of about five people and I like that they are a very small group all with specific jobs, and I see them being beneficial not only with my business but with cattle farmers on the island.”
“I am definitely very excited, I’ll have more time to do the things I want to do, besides expanding my business and the compost, and a biogas project using the fish waste to produce methane which then gets burned into a renewable source of green energy,” continued Mr. Meeker. “And there are two or three other projects we want to work on that have a lot of on the island, which we couldn’t think of doing before, but now I think we can.”
“The bottom line for me is I’ve been looking for a company to partner with for a long time, and I think I’ve found the right one in Blue Goose,” said Mr. Meeker. “Our partnership agreement took a long six months to formalize. This is my home, where I want to stay the rest of my life, create jobs, and provide products that consumers want, that are smart and environmentally friendly. I want to create jobs for our kids, the kids on the Island now and the future,” concluded Mr. Meeker. “It bothers me that capable educated kids we are losing because they are going someplace else to work. I want to help create jobs that young people can enjoy and have year-round, and they will stay here, making decent pay so they can raise a family, buy a house and spend their lives here. When I look at the Island compared to 30 years ago, I don’t like the way things are going, we are losing too many young people to jobs off the Island and we need to create jobs so they remain here and I’m convinced Blue Goose feels the same way.”