Charlie Iscoe and Laya Bail spent years in high-paced New York careers in finance and luxury fashion marketing, respectively, so it might be surprising to hear they started a company devoted to providing sustainably raised, non-GMO, local farm-to-table meat through subscription boxes in the GTA.
“[Laya and I] started to have this crazy idea of just leaving it all behind and travelling around the world before having kids and all that and just sort of thinking: if there was another career for ourselves, one that was fuelled by our passions,” Iscoe says.
So they took that trip and discovered the deep connection between good food, local agriculture and the artisans making it possible. Then the pandemic hit, and they decided to pack up a U-Haul and trek from New York to Creemore, Ont., to Bail’s family farm.
“In the first few weeks that we started planting and eating off the land, we were just dumbfounded to realize that the same passionate and amazing agriculture that we’d just spent months chasing around the world was quite literally in our own childhood backyard this entire time,” says Iscoe.
Meanwhile, Iscoe’s brother Alex had already formed relationships with pasture-raised meat farms because he was frustrated with the lack of options in the city. A frustration shared by friends Iscoe chatted with in Toronto. That’s when Sunday Farms was formed.
Iscoe says his time in high school at Upper Canada College helped lay the foundation he needed when starting a business.
“It helped me understand that this is the opportunity, this is what the long-term business plan could look like,” he says.
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The company offers a subscription-based service, which will deliver a package of your chosen meat selection every month or two months.
“We created our own checklist for what we cared about and what we would want to feed our own family,” Iscoe says.
Then they started calling farms in Ontario and going through that checklist, which included ensuring animals were pasture raised, never fed GMOs or given antibiotics or hormones and ensuring all beef is 100 per cent grass fed. They also looked for farms devoted to agricultural integrity, animal welfare and regenerative practices.
“We believe that less than two per cent of beef across Canada is actually pasture raised and 100 per cent grass fed,” Iscoe explains.
Sunday Farms currently has a database of more than 100 small family farms that they will reach out to as demand increases. Iscoe and Bail regularly visit the farms and have frequent conversations with the farmers.
“Our biggest value-added here is that we are helping farms grow by just educating consumers and finding this demand for them in the cities,” he says.