Originally published on Avenue Edmonton
By Lesley MacDonald
For Sheila Hamilton, who owns Sunworks Farm along with her husband Ron, farming isn’t simply a way to make a living — it’s a way of life. “We’re a value based farm, so it’s caring for creation which includes the land, the creatures, and the human beings,” says Hamilton.
For the Hamiltons, farming wasn’t in their blood — in fact, they were both working in other industries prior to opening Sunworks Farm, and it was a family health issue that sparked their interest in farming. Sheila had been struggling with various illnesses for as long as she could remember, and when her youngest daughter was born struggling with chronic health issues as well, Hamilton realized the family needed to move to a cleaner environment. So, they got out of the city, built a home that was as allergy free as possible, and tried to see if that would help their daughter’s health. Then, Sheila herself received a fibromyalgia diagnoses, and a doctor’s eventual comment shook her — “it’s the food that is making you so sick.” Hamilton realized that she and her daughter simply weren’t able to tolerate all the chemicals and additives found in many conventional food products, so they rehauled their diet and started growing their own vegetables and learning about animal husbandry. “Because of my health, if I can’t eat it, we don’t raise it or make it,” says Hamilton.
They started small — a few cattle, about 80 chicks from Hamilton’s sister. Then, people started asking to buy their products — and soon, they wanted to buy more. “It just snowballed,” says Hamilton, “but the one thing that hasn’t changed with our growth is the base values.” Many of her customers comment that the taste of her naturally, ethically raised meats is better, but Sunworks also attracts clients who can only eat organic meat, clients who value the way they raise the animals and respect them, and more. “We treat our livestock the way we treat ourselves,” says Hamilton.
They’ve been a staple of the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market for years, and their products are also available at various stores — and they’ve certainly expanded, now raising about 2,000 broiler chickens a week, getting about 300 dozen eggs a week, and more. “We’ve developed these relationships,” says Hamilton. “People trust us because we’re transparent and we talk to them.” And, even though the farm has been running for over two decades, Hamilton shows no signs of slowing down. “We’ve got a lot of stamina and we’ve got a lot of will power because we really believe this is what we are meant to be doing,” says Hamilton.