August 2 - 5, 2019
- August 3rd, 2019
- By Steven Sparling
At Cowbell, we are celebrating our 2nd Anniversary at the Farm.
I dedicate this celebration to my parents, Grant and Mildred Sparling, who moved to Blyth independently, married, created a life together and grew businesses, from nothing to something pretty remarkable. It was a privilege for the rest of my family to share that journey.
Mom and Dad were hard working, plain spoken, humble and faithful people, who never forgot the kindness of their adopted hometown - which supported their first business, a hardware store, that opened in 1950. And Mom and Dad spent a lifetime demonstrating their gratitude, often in ways we only heard of after their passing.
Fundamental to the Cowbell start-up was the unmistakable opportunity to contribute to the economic development potential in Huron County. This is about contributing to a rising tide. We believe in the basic tenet of “working together and winning together” and we appreciate the community response.
It has always been, and remains our hypothesis, that the world does not need another brewery and it does not need another beer, either. So, if we are going to do either, it better be special - a remarkable opportunity for we aspirational people and by that, I mean all of 173 of us at Cowbell.
Cowbell is Canada’s First Destination Brewery. An authentic, inclusive and accessible place. And with this hard-charging Team, this 120-acres, investing in state-of-the-art equipment, meaningful technology, and this unmistakable clarity of social and environmental purpose - we intend to reset benchmarks for craft beer. And we are so grateful for your early support.
The first year here at The Farm was an adventure. Before construction began, it was our stated goal to welcome 100,000 Guests per year, something that prompted most people to politely roll their eyes.
By our first anniversary, we had actually exceeded 150,000. The trend continues in year two, and every Guest allows us the opportunity to share the freshest beer, the best of Huron County -over 75% of the food we serve is sourced IN Huron County - and the finest hospitality. What a privilege.
We have miles to go before we rest, and we have so many plans for Cowbell and The Farm.
We are working with several universities, on a variety of research projects from technology innovation to a food forest. We have been through several concepts for our outdoor performance space for up to 15,000, and later this year, we will announce the final final plans.
There are plans for growing the beer business, a distillery and more. These are exciting times, here at the Farm, and we are just getting started.
Like all aspirational people, expect a lot from ourselves and we demand the best from each other, every day. Everything we do is measured against the Four Pillars of Cowbell: Quality, Integrity, Community and Social Responsibility.
Achievement is made possible by people who are here by choice. 173 people and every single one of us could be somewhere else - not one person at Cowbell is here by default. What a remarkable, powerful and distinguishing characteristic. Over half the Team is under the age of thirty and we have women in leadership at every level of the business.
Historically, in almost every small town and rural community, our #1 export is high school graduates – we grow them up and ship them out. So, from the outset, one of our primary objectives has been “Youth Repatriation”, to specifically seek out and recruit as many young people from here, to move back here, as possible.
It is vital to our business and it is imperative to the future of our rural communities. And we know that young people wish to be around other young people, so we recruited in cohorts, groups from which smaller groups became room-mates, team-mates, members of a band, and so on. This is absolutely one of the most rewarding outcomes -for me- of this start-up. To date, we have repatriated over 50 young people and I include our kids in this.
I am pleased to share that Cowbell recently submitted its Certified B Corporation application and we expect to announce our certification later this year. During the lengthy information gathering process, several interesting data points were identified and as it relates to the recruiting young and our Cowbell Team, here’s one: in the 365 days prior to submitting the application, we had received 685 applications for 16 advertised positions. In a rural market, this is truly remarkable. It is something that reflects well on the people who work here, who create the environment here and who make all of this, possible.
The local economy is diversifying. We are building vital, critical mass, led by the courageous private sector and supported by many, many others, who make an effort to get behind in what is possible.
There are many examples, like the Blyth Festival, which last year, had its most successful season ever – when they sold over 8,000 tickets more than the year before. And this season’s ticket sales picked up where last season left off.
We have many visits from various provincial and federal agencies and ministries, as we work to find areas for cooperation and collaboration.
One provincial ministry apparently uses the term, “The Cowbell Effect,” but we are not so bold as to say that the impact on real estate and the local economy is due to Cowbell. At the same time, we are not so naive as to ignore that we are part of it. This business is a force for good, in so many ways. And again, we thank you for your support.
We benefit from so many mutual relationships across the province and increasingly, in the GTA.
We believe it is time for the good people of Huron County to break our polite silence and I mean to do so, in meaningful, boisterous ways. It is time for us to claim a bigger piece of the action. Time to honk our own horns, bang the drums and to roll out the green grass and look up at the blue skies.
It is time to welcome the world to discover Huron County. Many have already been, but we invite many more to come and discover all the experiences that the wonderful people of Huron County have to offer. We are ready.
We are pleased that VIP Ontario Tours has accepted this invitation and has created the Cowbell Express, which is a luxury coach, which departs every Sunday morning from Toronto to The Farm.
We are working to create additional Cowbell Express options from other cities, with “Road Trip” designed to be part of the fun. Local transportation services are growing and this includes Great Lakes Helicopters, from Waterloo, which provides helicopter experiences to The Farm and custom flights in the region.
We invite your visit and hope to see you soon.