Rebecca Landman never dreamed her family business would grow to become the attraction it is today. Landman Gardens and Bakery is a beloved mainstay in the local community and beyond. Located north of Grand Valley, Ontario, the business includes a farm, a commercial kitchen that churns out delicious treats, a bustling patio and a well-loved farm store.
When we heard the news about the business closing, we wanted to share Rebecca’s inspirational story of starting and growing the business, what she’s learned as an agritourism entrepreneur, and what prompted the decision to close down.
Rebecca grew up on the family dairy farm and became involved in agriculture from a young age. It was always her intention to start a business that would connect people with the food they were eating. “Being raised in a big family, food and eating together was always a special time and I wanted to help create similar memories for other people and their families!”
What started as a humble farm business with a lean staff of mostly summer students eventually bloomed to become a full-fledged agritourism attraction, with a staff of up to seven people at its peak.
It all started with a one-acre market garden. Since then, Landman’s has evolved into a farm store, an online store, and hosting workshops and events on the farm. A meat and egg farm-share program feeds up to forty families each month as well as a wholesale side to the business for meats, preserves and soups. In the farm store, customers can purchase everything from farm-raised pork, chicken and eggs, to homemade soups, meat pies and baked goods.
As the business was thriving, Rebecca found that building a strong relationship with Central Counties Tourism was a key factor in spreading awareness to new audiences. From being a board member to taking advantage of various marketing opportunities, being involved was an important way to grow the business.
“Being on the board was a great learning experience because I was able to connect with other businesses I wouldn’t have otherwise. I was also able to attend events that I haven’t before like the TIAO event where I learned a lot. Having CCT’s support on a couple of marketing initiatives was excellent!”
She recounts one example of pairing up with Destination Ontario to promote their Blackhouse dinners and the impact that campaign had on the business. “We were booked solid for a year and had a waitlist for the following season. CCT has been an excellent partner and I really encourage you to reach out to them with your crazy marketing ideas!”
Along with collaborating with CCT, Rebecca often works with other local businesses as a way to cross-promote products and recommends this as an excellent opportunity to connect with similar audiences to her own business, as well as support other local folks.
“Two current cross-promotions we are running is our Blueberry lavender jam made with Hereward Farms Lavender. Both Hereward Farms and Landman’s sell it, the packaging has both of our logos and contact information on it. And the second is our granola. We make it with Ontario Honey Creations’ delicious honey. They have recently started packaging it for their store as “honey granola” and it’s going over quite well too!”
With all of this success, Rebecca admits it was a very difficult decision to close the business.
She opened in 2011 intending to operate as a small farm store and participate in some farmers’ markets. When the pandemic occurred, the entire business shifted to opening an online store and delivering orders. These important changes grew the business exponentially.
She worked hard to rise to the demands of the community, making more premade foods like meat pies, and providing grocery essentials like frozen fruits and vegetables.
“It was wild! In the same period of business growth, I became a mom and now have two wonderful young daughters. In the end, running a small business is overwhelming and all-encompassing, and I have felt stretched too thin for too long. I knew I needed to make a change and be more present for my daughters this past year. Being a small business owner is a tough job! Especially in the climate we are in right now, with rising costs, labour shortages and inflation.”
As a seasoned entrepreneur, when asked what advice she would give to other business owners, Rebecca says, “I think the biggest advice I have is to get out to events and meet people! Whether they are tourism-related or not it is a great way to network and learn how you can work together to bring more tourists your way.”
She adds that networking can also include reaching out to your local municipality’s team or community centre and seeing what they’re offering and how your business could be a fit. If there aren’t any networking groups available, Rebecca recommends starting your own. “We recently did that in Grand Valley, the Grand Valley Small Business group, and have created a couple of great initiatives from it, including running a monthly farmers market.”
With Landman’s winding down, Rebecca reflects on some of the lessons she’s learned,
“One of the biggest lessons would be to surround yourself with people who build you up and are as excited about your business (or geographic area) as you are, whether they are staff, your suppliers, or other local businesses. Building a great team stems from that. Knowing that my staff can come to work and enjoy their day while also making quality products is something that I really strive for and hope I have accomplished.”
She also mentions that understanding your strengths and weaknesses is key. In Rebecca’s case, her weakness was accounting, so when she could, she hired a local bookkeeper which allowed her to focus on other areas of the business.
For Rebecca, her most treasured lesson has been to always lead with authenticity and kindness. Relationships are especially important in a small business and the reason that people often choose to shop locally rather than visit a chain store. “Whether that’s remembering birthdays or their dog’s names or their favourite BBQ sauce…show up for people how you would like to be served.”
Landman Garden and Bakery will be sorely missed by the community it has been a part of for the past eleven years, but building up such a successful landmark has been a massive accomplishment. We hope that Rebecca will continue to find her joy through food and thank her for being a key Central Counties Tourism board member and partner.