Flory Sanderson is the founding owner of Island Hill Farm in Hampshire, PEI. Flory moved to the Island when she was 15 years old and soon after that she met her husband Robbie, a beef and potato farmer. Together they have been raising their girls and building their business ever since. Flory spent many years as a busy mother of 3 girls, a farmer’s wife, and retail worker, but that all transformed in 2011 when Flory was gifted her first goat. Within a couple of years, Flory’s passion for helping others and love for animals grew and she established the “Cutest Place on Earth”, a cozy and welcoming petting farm. “Farmer Flory” strives for her small family farm to be a kind, safe place for all who visit while focusing on animal care and food education. At the beginning, her goal was to have 45 visits per week at the farm and now 6 years later she is getting 150 – 350 visitors per day, including celebrities and the Stanley Cup. Island Hill Farm is continually flourishing. Alongside the petting farm, there is a Gift Shop featuring all local products, an event room, goat yoga, and new this summer a Cafe. Island Hill Farm has a lot to offer and is truly a must visit on the island.
Name: Flory Sanderson
Occupation: Owner of Island Hill Farm
What does your job entail?
Currently I am feeding a tiny little baby bunny, but day to day I mainly care for the animals which includes feeding and milking the goats, work with our staff and visitors, tend to sick animals, clean the barns, gardening, cooking, cleaning, really each day I do a little bit of everything.
How long have you been involved in agriculture\food industry on PEI?
I got my first goat in 2011, but it wasn’t until 2012 -2013 where I began to sell my food and get recognized by the public.
What is your education/ experience prior to entering your current job?
After I graduated high school, I worked in retail and sales, but I came in connection with agriculture when I was 16 and was dating a farmer who is now my husband. We have been living in this farmhouse since I was 17.
Are you involved in any extracurricular or community activities?
I am on the board for the Duke of Edinburgh, it is one of my passions. I like to help kids coming through here find a way that they can do it and encourage them to join. I am also a part of the Small Ruminant Board of Directors, and on the Emergency Goat/ Sheep Federation where if there was an emergency evacuation for animals diseased then I help with that.
What’s your favourite way to eat goat?
I do have a couple favourite ways. On the meat side of it, I love the donair meat that we make and I love the ground meat that we use it in our lasagna and spaghetti and it is really good. But I also really enjoy the goat milk and cheese.
When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Farming was certainly not what I ever thought I would be doing. I did always dreamt about chasing and marrying a cowboy, as I loved western movies. Even since I was young though I truly just wanted to be a mom, raise kids and be a wife; and I have done just that… currently I am doing it in a different way. I have lots and lots of “kids” now.
What would you want consumers to know about your business and the agriculture/food Industry?
I tell the truth about my animals, food products, and farm operation and the majority of farmers do, we are all very open and honest and eager to educate people about how our food is produced. I think people are uneducated on what certain terms mean, for example, if a product isn’t labelled “Organic” then they think it isn’t healthy. From being a beef and potato farmer’s wife, so many people would have negative things to say regarding the size of our fields, or what you are feeding the animals. People see videos of animals being tortured online and believe that that is the way we treat our animals, but that is not the norm. That is not what Canadian farmers do and most likely those videos are from other countries, and that is not how it is done in PEI and Canada.
I truly believe that people need to be more aware of where their food comes from. And it needs to be kept simple and not overthinking it, for example during childrens tours here we casually talk about where our food comes from, and say things like “This is a chicken, like the chicken you eat; This is a hen, they lay eggs that we eat.” It is simple, so keep it simple, we need to stop complicating this.
I am so kind to my animals and I ethically raise them. I am so sad when I can’t save one due to illness because that is food that someone doesn’t get. If a doe dies after giving birth that is food that we miss out on, it is a huge loss, financially and it is a food waste.
Why do you do what you do?
Because I love it. It gives me so much energy, and such self satisfaction to show someone that you can take a tiny little thing and grow it into something so great, but also to inspire people that it is never too late to chase your goals. The biggest risk of owning a public farm is disease, but that risk itself is minor compared to all the lives that I get to touch, from the little children who come and say “I want to be a farmer like Farmer Flory” or the amount of jobs that I can provide, this summer I will have 18 employees, that is huge for rural PEI. The contribution to my community is why I do it, my job makes me happy but it also makes everyone around me happy too.