As Heather Coffey and Stephanie Laing approach their tenth season at Fiddlehead Farm, there’s a sense of accomplishment in the air. The entrepreneurial road is a bumpy one, especially in agriculture, with unexpected setbacks and hurdles lurking around every corner. But now that the pair have reached a point where the dream is a reality, all their hard work is that much more meaningful. 

Of course, no small business achieves success without a loyal group of supporters from the local community. Such is the case with Fiddlehead and their customer base within South Eastern Ontario. Through a year-round Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, the farm feeds hundreds of faithful families in Prince Edward County and the surrounding communities – including Napanee, Belleville and Trenton. 

Support comes from other small businesses in the area, too. The County is a place that fosters relationships between entrepreneurs, regardless of whether or not they operate in the same marketplace. Farmers especially are happy to team up and help each other grow their businesses; doing so allows them to operate more efficiently and more economically. 

For this reason, Heather and Stephanie are happy to join fellow growers in ordering supplies in bulk to lower costs. Likewise, when Stephanie discovered a unique paper pot transplanter, which drastically cuts planting time, others jumped at the chance to unite and order direct from Japan.

“We work with other farms, ordering things together to cut costs. There is a great network of small producers, and it extends to surrounding areas, Kingston and Hastings, too,” Heather stated during an interview with Janet Davies from Build a New Life in The County

Aside from placing bulk orders and loaning each other equipment, farmers in the region love to get together to have fun and celebrate their milestones. They share hard-learned lessons, commiserate with one another’s losses and provide encouragement when needed. 

Good Food Brings Two City Girls To The County   

Both Heather and Stephanie come from urban communities, and neither come from farming families. So how did the pair end up becoming growers in Prince Edward County? 

Their academic backgrounds planted the seed for a career in agriculture. Stephanie studied politics at the University of Ottawa and Queen’s University, where the connection between urban development, the environment, and our food was brought to the forefront. Heather studied landscape ecology and loved biology fieldwork. 

Eventually, the two decided to trade in research and theory for something more hands-on and practical. So they set out on their separate paths in search of change. 

Fate and a farm in Ottawa brought the two together. By then, Stephanie was ready to start a farm of her own, while Heather had just finished her degree and was looking for something more permanent than research and fieldwork could provide. Their common interests forged a bond that would lead them to a partnership in life and in business. 

They both had a passion for good homegrown food, and while communities across Ontario had begun to embrace their local farmers, putting fresh food in the fridge was still a challenge. 

“We were perplexed by the fact that there’s so much food to be grown and had year-round. Yet there just wasn’t enough supply, and it was really hard to find good local food.”

Heather and Stephanie decided to face the challenge head-on. Their mission was to improve their knowledge of agriculture and food distribution, all while feeding their community with fresh, farm-to-table produce. But first, they needed a house and enough land to farm.

Stephanie sold Heather on Prince Edward County as the destination to call home. And what’s not to love? The region is a hotbed for growers, food producers, winemakers, and brewmasters alike. Food and drink go hand-in-hand in The County, and that’s exactly what the aspiring entrepreneurs were looking for. Not to mention, friendly people, beautiful country views, and of course, plentiful farmland packed with nutrient-rich soil. 

With the help of Stephanie’s dad, they purchased an old eight-bedroom home (circa 1845) with lots of property. It was a fixer-upper, but the bones were solid and the land was ready to be tilled. It was just what they needed, and in 2012, Fiddlehead Farm was in business. 

For the first few years, Heather and Stephanie rented half the house as an Airbnb, using the income to pay their mortgage while all their other resources went to running the farm and bootstrapping their business from the ground up. Now, with the farm’s positive revenue, they rent that half of the house to their staff and are able to enjoy a little more peace of mind.

Over 40 Varieties Of Vegetables Feeding 300 Households

Early on, Heather and Stephanie chose to focus on a CSA business model. For them, this was the best way to provide the community with fresh food, as it allowed them to put all of their energy into growing and harvesting. 

That said, they are adamant about educating people about the importance of local food. Prior to the pandemic, CSA members had the opportunity to tour Fiddlehead Farm and learn about the ins and outs of ecological agriculture. For the time being, member tours have been halted, but Heather is keen to have them up and running again when the time is right. 

That’s not to say customers are unable to connect with the farm. Fiddlehead is very active on social media through its Facebook and Instagram pages, and Heather publishes a weekly newsletter called Happenings, providing readers with updates on how things are growing, what’s new on the farm, what to expect in upcoming CSA boxes and more. 

Fiddlehead’s CSA program operates year-round, providing boxes of fresh vegetables to customers within the region. Along with their drop-off locations in Prince Edward County, Picton, Napanee, and Belleville, Heather and Stephanie also deliver to the Annex, Junction, and Danforth areas in Toronto. Boxes are delivered: 

  • Weekly from July–October
  • Fortnightly between April–June
  • Monthly during November–March 

Orders are placed through Harvie, an online platform connecting consumers to trusted farms through an easy-to-use eCommerce site. Members are given a variety of options, including customizable small- or regular-sized boxes, seasonal sign-ups, or single trials as well as spring, summer, and winter shares. 

Boxes feature a range of vegetables that vary depending on the season. From beans and carrots to potatoes and tomatoes to leafy greens and everything in between, you’re guaranteed to get your fill of fresh food! Throughout the colder months, expect root vegetables and other hardy produce, while the farm’s greenhouses allow Heather and Stephanie to provide you with greens all year.

“There’s so much good food to be grown year-round, and we really want to help bring it to people who want to eat it!   

The idea for annual CSA options came once the pair realized they had leftovers after each harvest in the fall. And with 10 acres of gardens, there was plenty to go around. It was more than they could consume themselves, and given how well vegetables keep when stored correctly, offering boxes in the winter was the obvious choice.  

A lot of members in the community are year-round. And for those who aren’t crazy about root vegetables, the addition of two greenhouses in 2021 gave Fiddlehead the ability to offer more variety in their winter shares.  

To sign up, or to learn more about the program, visit Fiddlehead’s registration page on Harvie

A Time For Growing And A Time For Resting 

To say Heather and Stephanie lead a busy lifestyle is an understatement. 

Along with running the farm, doing deliveries, and keeping up with maintenance on their old home, the pair are active in provincial and regional associations. They are proud members of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario and the National Farmers Union, taking on various roles over the years. They have also been involved with the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training and the Belleville Farmers’ Market Association. 

For now, they’re taking a little break. The pandemic has put a damper on all social activities, business-related and otherwise, with many farmers needing to double down and adapt their businesses to market closures, supply chain delays, and labour issues. So, as the winter sets in, the two are taking advantage of some much-earned downtime. It’s a necessary pause. Even when you love what you do, allowing yourself a chance to recharge and prepare for the next season is vital for success in business – and in life. 

Plus, it gives Heather and Stephanie a chance to celebrate. They’ve hit a sweet spot in their lives both personally and professionally; not only is this a milestone year for Fiddlehead Farm, but the pair were recently married. Their mission has been achieved. The farm can be officially deemed a successful business, providing meaningful, reliable employment to locals while serving their customers with fresh food. 

And it’s something the two accomplished together.

They’re proud of their tight-knit team and are eager for the future. They look forward to reconnecting with their customers a little more post-pandemic. Until then, Heather offers these parting words: 

“Eat local and enjoy the tastiness!” 

To learn more about Fiddlehead Farm, visit their website at or follow the farm on Facebook and Instagram.