Back to Additional Resources

The New Farm

Gillian Flies and her husband Brent Preston own and operate The New Farm, a regenerative organic vegetable farm that provides high-quality, organic produce to restaurants and specialty retail stores in the Toronto and Collingwood areas.

Posted in Farmer Profiles
View Next Resource
The New Farm 2

Family Farm:

Gillian Flies and Brent Preston

Farm Location:

Located on the crest of the Niagara Escarpment just west of the village of Creemore.


First year on the farm was in 2003; Certified Organic with Pro-Cert and Regenerative Organic Certification with ROA.

Approach to Farming:

Regenerative Organic Agriculture.


  • Acreage: 20 farmed acres, 100 total acres

  • Crops: Cool weather greens and root vegetables (baby leaf arugula, spicy salad greens, baby leaf spinach, Heirloom Potatoes, French Fingerlings (red skin and pink flesh), German Butterballs (white skin and flesh), All Reds (bright red skin and flesh), Russian Blues (dark purple skin and flesh) and Linzer Deleketes (white skin and yellow flesh fingerling), four varieties of beet (gold, striped, pure white and traditional purple), and Japanese Cucumbers (grown indoors).

  • Livestock: Cattle (for selective grazing of cover crops).

  • Soil: Sandy loam soils, cool climate.

A Regenerative Organic Farm Embracing the Good Food Movement 

Gillian Flies and her husband Brent Preston own and operate The New Farm, a regenerative organic vegetable farm that provides high-quality, organic produce to restaurants and specialty retail stores in the Toronto and Collingwood areas. On 20 farmed acres, they grow salad greens like baby leaf arugula, spicy salad greens, baby leaf spinach, and root vegetables like Heirloom Potatoes, French Fingerlings, German Butterballs, All Reds, Russian Blues, Linzer Deleketes, and four varieties of beets.

The New Farm 1

Moving to the Country

Gillian grew up on a sheep farm in rural Vermont. After graduating from the University of Vermont, she joined the Peace Corps and spent two years teaching math in Botswana. She then went on to work for human rights and democratic development organizations on four continents, and organized observer delegations for landmark elections in Nigeria, Indonesia, and East Timor.

When Gillian and Brent had two young children, Gillian found herself unable to continue ignoring the looming climate crisis. She wanted to take action and help create a better future for her children. Agriculture is a common denominator in a lot of processes that contribute to climate change, so the couple decided to shift gears; “We did something radical – no, we did something crazy: we bought a farm and decided to set out to grow food the right way.” After six years as a management consultant in Toronto, Gillian left her successful city career with her family and moved to a 100-acre farm in rural Ontario.

The farm itself is located on the crest of the Niagara Escarpment, just west of the village of Creemore. The region’s cool climate and sandy loam soils allow for the growth of cool-weather salad greens and root vegetables. Today, Gillian and Brent are the proud owners of The New Farm, a thriving business and a leading light in the “good food movement”, providing organic vegetables to some of the best restaurants in Canada. The journey to their success was a long one, filled with challenges and obstacles.

The Small Farm’s Orthodoxy

When they first began growing produce on the farm, they sold exclusively to farmers’ markets, falling into what Gillian calls the “small farm’s orthodoxy”: they figured they had no choice but to sell their produce at local farmers’ markets, as they were a small farm without the capacity to travel elsewhere. They spent the first 5 years on the farm selling to the farmers’ market in Creemore but were struggling to work on weekends with two young children at home. Gillian started thinking that forming a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), a program that involves connecting farmers to members of the community that purchase a share of the harvest to spread the risk between farmers and consumers (Canadian Organic Growers, 2023), would make it eaiser to balance running the farm and raising their children.

Gillian then met 100KM Foods, a distributor that let them get into selling primarily to restaurants and wholesale. This allowed Gillian and Brent to save time and money and focus more on growing high-quality crops. When Gillian and Brent were selling their crops at the farmers’ market, they had to travel to town which took time and cost fuel. They also had to harvest everything prior to the market, not knowing if it would sell or not. Under the wholesale model with 100KM Foods, they no longer had to harvest their crops until they were sold, which allowed the farm to save money and avoid wasting produce. Another big difference was the labour.

There was much more labour required to package crops for presentation at the farmers’ market versus preparing their produce for distribution.

When Brent and Gillian compared their farmers’ market revenues to their new restaurant and wholesale selling, they found that the dollar output per unit of labour had a much higher return selling to the wholesaler. For instance, when they factored in all of the time, labour, food waste, and money that went into their sales, they found that selling ten-half pound bags at the farmers’ market was significantly less profitable than selling one five pound bin to their wholesaler, even if they were selling their produce for a higher price in the farmers’ market. This realisation resulted in a slow transition to marketing their produce through only through their wholesaler.

The New Farm 3

Selling to Chefs

Gillian did notice one major drawback in the shift to wholesale: farmers’ markets are community-oriented, so they had to build community in other ways. “The thing we do miss about selling in the market is that we don’t have that direct customer relationship anymore.” Gillian says, “We work really hard to still know all of our chefs.” Gillian and Brent organize a lot of events and invite their customers to come to their farm. Three of their restaurant customers even have their own gardens on the farm now. “Our farm is a place that people gather to learn about food and build community,” Gillian says.

Working with chefs as their primary customers has proved to have unique challenges for The New Farm. In Gillian’s experience, chefs are used to placing orders and receiving ingredients on a next-day basis, which would not be feasible when produce on the farm is being harvested to order. They found their chefs would often forget to place their orders ahead of the harvest, so it has been necessary for Gillian and Brent to reach out to their customers when new produce might be needed. Gillian said chefs also tend to overestimate the amount of produce they will need down the line, which leads them to buy less of the produce they initially discussed purchasing. Despite a somewhat unpredictable, atypical customer base, Gillian and Brent have learned that these challenges are far from insurmountable.

Building Community

Coming from a political background in human rights, Gillian wanted to bring social justice back into her life. Selling to upscale restaurants and wealthy communities helped The New Farm succeed, but it was not part of her vision. To return to her roots in social justice, Brent and Gillian started donating produce to The Stop Community Food Center in Toronto. While fulfilling her desire to give back to the community, their model of donating produce did not prove to be financially sustainable for their business. Brent and Gillian then turned to their customers and began organizing fundraising events to support social justice issues with the chefs who bought their organic vegetables.

These small fundraising events have since turned into an annual fundraising initiative called Farms for Change. Farms for Change is a partnership that The New Farm forged with Community Food Centres Canada, to raise funds to provide local, organic produce to The Stop and more than 15 other Community Food Centres and food organizations throughout Southern Ontario. They have since raised almost one million dollars to make local, organic food accessible in low-income communities.

Why Regenerative Organic?

On The New Farm, Gillian and Brent use regenerative organic agricultural practices so they can build healthier soils. These practices include reducing tillage, implementing animals, and cover cropping. Gillian tells us, “The regenerative organic practices that we use on our farm are designed to put carbon back in the soil and reduce GHG emissions, while at the same time making farms more resilient to climate changes and storms.”

Improving soil health is beneficial for both their crops and the environment. For instance, soil plays a critical role in numerous processes required to grow crops, such as nutrient cycling and water retention (Regeneration Canada, 2023). When degraded, the soil loses its ability to absorb water and grow plants, making the land less farmable (Regeneration Canada, 2023).

These degraded soils also emit their carbon content as CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change (Regeneration Canada, 2023). While many conventional farming practices can degrade soil through erosion, frequent tillage, and pollution, the practices that The New Farm uses not only avoid degrading the soil but improve it (Reganold, Elliott, & Unger, 1987).

“Organic farming practices leave the soil better than we found it,” explains Gillian. According to the National Soil Project data analysis, organic farming fosters significantly higher levels of both soil organic matter and sequestered carbon than conventional farming (Nick, 2018). On The New Farm, they also make an effort to create as much biodiversity as possible, such as diversifying their cropping mix and cover crops. Outside of their productive areas, Gillian and Brent have planted over 10 thousand trees on the farm. Over the past 4 years, they have also started integrating custom grazing of cattle to manage their cover crops.

When Gillian was a young professional living in Toronto, she didn’t envision the remarkable success story she would soon create. Gillian and Brent left the city to enact change, and in the years that followed, they created a community that comes together to celebrate food, social justice, and soil health. From learning the many challenges of a small farm to fostering customer relationships with some of the best chefs in the country, Gillian and her husband have made a living doing something that brings about change for the whole community. Gillian says, “My life as a farmer is challenging, and meaningful, and good.”


Antler, S., & Munroe, G. (2021, August). Soil Health impacts all Canadians. Retrieved January, from

Arsenault, C. (2014, December 05). Only 60 years of farming left if soil degradation continues. Retrieved from

Canadian Organic Growers. (2023). CSA directory. CSA Directory. Retrieved from

Nick, J. (2018, September 9). 10 Ways Organic Improves Soil Health. Retrieved from

Reganold, J. P., Elliott, L. F., & Unger, Y. L. (1987). Long-term effects of organic and conventional farming on soil erosion. Nature, 330(6146), 370-372. doi:10.1038/330370a0

Why soil? (2023). Regenerative Canada. Retrieved from

Zalidis, G., Stamatiadis, S., Takavakoglou, V., Eskridge, K., Misopolinos, N. (2002). Impacts of agricultural practices on soil and water quality in the Mediterranean region and proposed assessment methodology. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 88(2), 137-146. doi:10.1016/s0167-8809(01)00249-3


The Prairie Farmer Profiles (Sundog Organic Farm, MJJ & A Organic Farm, Haywire Farms, Mill Creek Organics Ltd, Pristine Prairie Organics, Upland Organics, Our Farm, G & G Farms, Marshall Farms and Penny Lane Organics) were written by Janet Wallace.  The Ontario Farmer Profiles were provided by the Organic Council of Ontario.   The Farmer Profiles were developed as part of the Prairie Organic Development Fund’s Canadian Organic Ingredient Strategy (COIS).  The COIS was funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, Government of Canada.  Translation services were provided by the Government of Manitoba.