Client Spotlight: Adagio Acres

Client Spotlight: Adagio AcresFor five generations, Amy Nikkel’s family has farmed and homesteaded in the Interlake Region of Manitoba – the same area in which she now grows organic oats on her farm, Adagio Acres.   

Despite a rich background in farming, Amy and her husband Donald saw milling and food processing as a bigger part of their vison for the farm, located in Clarkleigh, Manitoba – a technically non-existent town marked only by an old sign, a church, and a goat farm – near Lundar. “We wanted to help localize grain milling, to shrink it back down to a human scale, so that folks here in Manitoba can shorten their food chain and reduce the environmental impact of their food choices.” Amy said.  

Manitoba produces a wide variety of crops, but they are often harvested and shipped out of province (and sometimes out of country) to be processed, and then back again to line the shelves of local grocery stores. 

In July 2020, a COVID-19-induced crossroad brought Adagio Acres and WECM together when Amy and Donald found themselves struggling with the decision to either expand and sell their oats to restaurants across Western Canada, or to localize further and keep their products in their beloved home province. After witnessing restaurants and borders continue to close amid the pandemic, the choice became abundantly clear.  

“We doubled down to work more closely with a greater variety of organic farmers here in Manitoba,” Amy said. “But that also meant purchasing new equipment, and we just weren’t sure if we could make that jump.” 

The RRRF (Regional Relief and Recovery Fund) loan Amy and Donald received through WECM allowed them to expand and diversify their processing capacity and purchase new milling equipment.  

“In addition to the oats we were previously milling, we are now able to source other organic grains like lentils, beans, corn, buckwheat, and flax from Manitoba organic farmers,” Amy said. “We process those crops on our farm and bring them to grocery store shelves and kitchens across the province.” 

Adagio Acres launched a retail brand, Manitoba Rotations, which brings a selection of rotating seasonal products to grocery stores across Manitoba, including Red River Co-op, Safeway, Sobeys, Family Foods, and other independent grocers.  

“It’s a wonderful feeling to work with farmers directly, bring value to their crops, and share that food with folks across the province,” Amy said. “It’s work that feels meaningful and valuable in this increasingly disconnected world.”   

Amy says one of the best parts about being a small business owner is knowing her farm has helped people pursue healthier, more sustainable eating habits, and better understand Manitoba and the amazing food it produces – but it certainly doesn’t come without its challenges. 

“It can be really stressful, and growth periods are risky and uncertain,” she said. “The balance between pursuing a vision and being financially stable can be tricky. But we hear from customers all the time that our Winter Grain Bundles have completely changed their relationship to food, and that’s an incredible privilege that makes the stress and uncertainty worthwhile.”  

Adagio Acres’ Winter Grain Bundles have been in development over the last few years and are the first concept of its kind in Canada. After each year’s harvest, Adagio Acres works with about a dozen farmers across Manitoba to compile a huge assortment of organically grown and locally processed grains, flours, seeds, pulses, and oils. The bundles are brought into Winnipeg at the end of January for collection on the Zero-Waste Pick-Up Day, at which time consumers bring their own reusable containers to collect their pre-ordered bundles.  

“The day is an incredible way to connect farmers and foodies, to learn about the process that brings food onto your plate, and to support local farmers as they experiment with new crops, new rotations and developing local processing capacity to find the most sustainable way to feed us,” Amy said.  

Adagio, which means to do something at a slower tempo in Italian, is in both the name and the core of Amy and Donald’s values – food at a slower tempo. 

“Prior to accessing our loan, we had not worked with WECM, nor did we know much about the kinds of business supports they had available,” Amy said. “But I’ve been really impressed with the range of services they offer, from financial loans to workshops and networking – even an insightful podcast that shares stories from other women entrepreneurs which has helped me learn about my own path forward, through hearing the challenges and successes that others have navigated.” 

 The deadline for purchasing 2022 Winter Grain Bundles is Sunday, December 11th and are available on the Adagio Acres’ website under the “Shop” tab.