How do you run a multi-department maple farm during a pandemic? Good question. Lucky for us, we have such a dedicated, hard-working team that somehow we made it work.
Let’s rewind to March 2020 when we were in the full swing of #MapleSeason. The first few days of Sugar Bush Tours nearly sold out; the sun came out every Saturday morning and stuck around all weekend — not sure how the weather was so perfect in the Spring of 2020 but we were loving it. March Break was looking promising with several group bookings and a favourable forecast. As the days leading up to this fateful week unfolded, everything changed. Not only were our customers unable to come to the farm, our staff faced challenges of their own.
It started with the schools. Richard and Amanda have 2 school-age children and a handful of our other staff have kids in school as well. There were so many unknowns about when school would be back in session. Amanda and our Production Coordinator, Terri, found themselves staying home with their children and diving head first into online learning. Two of our key head office crew were now working remotely. Meetings pushed past bedtime and Terri came in on Saturdays while maneuvering around her husband’s shift work. The farm kids were always in and out of the office while Richard and Amanda completed their day’s work. We evolved into a flexible workflow in order to stay productive. We were making it work.
When we were no longer able to host tours, and The Maple Syrup Store at The Fallsview Casino closed, we shifted our focus to rebuilding our website. Luckily this was a mostly web-based project so working remotely was pretty attainable. As months went on we found ourselves approaching the opportunity to shift to a web-based inventory management software as well. This made a HUGE difference in what we could do outside of the office.
The Internet really is the future (as if we didn’t know that already)…
While the new workflow was in a steady rhythm, another big change was approaching. Our Business Development & Sales Manager, Sara announced her pregnancy in late summer of 2020. So began the inevitable loss of another body in the office. However, unlike a pandemic, maternity leave is much easier to plan for. Slowly, Sara began stepping back from her position and dividing her responsibilities among the team. Luckily the farm staff was so used to adapting to new circumstances, that it was a relatively straightforward transition.
It’s interesting to consider how this past year and a half has prompted businesses to consider a different approach in the workplace. Richard and Amanda have always fostered a “productivity culture” vs. a “timeclock culture”. They encourage the team to complete projects in a timely manner while keeping a schedule that works best for their personal life. With the exception of the hours of operation in our retail stores, our work schedule fluctuates around what is most attainable during these challenging times.
Over a year has come and gone while empty desks sit lonely inside the maple office. Finally this Fall, the team will reunite once again (and it feels so good!) The kids are back in school, the maternity leave is nearing its end and the maple farm is getting its management team back on site! We’re so excited to be back in the office and start delving into the holiday season with a few new faces in our stores. If you haven’t been out to Niagara on the Lake, Niagara Falls or the farm we’d love to see you soon!