by Stella Shepard
Crystal Burke Cheverie of Fortune is a fourth-generation farmer. She and her husband, Trevor, opened Fortune Bridge Farms in 2015. The business expanded with a roadside vegetable stand and Toby’s Farm Market in 2020.
In 2021, Matthew Burke, who graduated from the Culinary Institute in 2014, joined Crystal and Trevor to open and operate Toby’s Take-Out, a new and very popular food truck for the area.
The farming operation on the Veterans Memorial Highway near Souris grows more than 100 acres of turnips, carrots, parsnips, and cabbage, and sells directly to local and off-Island customers.
It’s been a busy season with hundreds of visitors flocking to the farm, which offers a full line of vegetables, PEI products, a fun park, ice-cream, take-out service, a beer garden, and summer and fall activities such as a sunflower fest and a corn maze.
“We have been expanding yearly to grow into a popular seasonal location,” says Crystal. “This year was our busiest summer since opening.
“The fun park includes a giant tire dinosaur, pedal trike track, a sandbox area, and a mega slide, the only one in Atlantic Canada.”
The attractiveness of three acres of dozens of sunflower varieties swaying in a warm summer breeze lures tourists and Islanders. “We transformed the three acres of sunflowers into our first annual sunflower festival in August of 2022,” says Crystal.
Nearby is a greenhouse with 100,000 flowers of various varieties for sale. In fall, children and adults delight in a 10-acre patch of pumpkins, squash, and gourds.
Crystal and Trevor are busy during the winter months with trimming and packaging stored root crops for market, planning for the upcoming season, and recruiting staff.
About the staff
“We hire 10 employees for Toby’s Farm Market,” says Crystal. “Plus, numerous other people play an important part in the business, from the field workers to the warehouse packers.”
“Work starts in the greenhouse in March. We are presently recruiting five more field workers for the 2023 season starting in April. We will be extending our season by opening in April and we hope to stay open through the fall on reduced hours.”
Community Business Development Corporation East (CBDC), located at the Rural Action Centre on Main Street in Montague, assists in creating small businesses and in expanding and modernizing existing businesses.
CBDC East is staffed by Martina MacDonald, Director, Helen Antle, CBDC Officer, and Terri Taylor, Accounts Officer.
“CBDC East was very helpful in informing us about their programs, what they had to offer, and ways to expand our business,” says Crystal.
CBDC East provides financial and technical services to entrepreneurs. Services target entrepreneurs who require customized financing not ordinarily available from traditional sources.
“Small businesses are the heartbeat of the community,” says Martina. “We help businesses to succeed and we give high priority to the advisory role of our mandate.”