A farm experience for all – How Leaping Deer came to be
In 2006, Julie and Don Budd opened Leaping Deer Bakery & Coffee Shop with the intent of creating a unique on-farm experience that offered wholesome local food and educated the general public about agriculture.
Several years prior to the opening of the business, formerly known as Leaping Deer Adventure Farm & Market, the farm consisted of a dairy, hog and cash crop operation. After Don’s brother retired and Julie and Don took on the whole operation, they sold their dairy cows and began looking at new ways to make income.
“We wanted to stay on the farm rather than work off the farm,” said Julie. “But we wanted diversification with the farm.”
The Budds were inspired to pursue the agritainment industry after Julie attended a tourism workshop hosted by Tourism Oxford.
“I got lots of ideas for what we could possibly do to add value to what we already had here.”
Leaping Deer originally began with a John Deer museum, a corn maze, and several other on-farm activities. The coffee shop came a year after opening, shortly followed by the bakery.
Recently, Leaping Deer has downscaled to just the coffee shop and bakery.
Leaping Deer has quickly become a place of community for Julie and Don.
“We just enjoyed people and hearing their story. They were willing to share that with us, and we found that valuable and interesting,” said Julie.
“When you walk in the door, we care that you’re here and we treat everyone like part of the family.”
Leaping Deer has made a point of giving back to that community.
“We’ve been involved in fundraising for all kinds of associations and local groups. We’ve donated to the three county hospitals for many years. That’s part of who we are. Buying local and serving community I think are the biggest things to be most proud of.”
“We are also most proud of making our farm a place where people can have a true farm experience,” added Julie.
Education has become a huge part of the Leaping Deer experience. They’ve found that by allowing visitors to do things on the farm like feeding the baby goats or watching crops being harvested, they would inspire visitors to ask questions about agriculture that they could answer.
Leaping Deer ensures that everyone has access to this experience.
“We’re also known as being an accessible farm. That was part of our mandate. That hits close to home for us.”
Don had mobility challenges as a child, and the Budds also have family members who require accommodations.
“We just wanted someone, even though they had challenges, to be able to still experience the farm, have fun and learn.”
Leaping Deer has experienced its fair share of challenges.
“It’s way more work than conventional farming. We had to learn how to become marketers,” said Julie.
Like many farmers, the Budds relied on their agricultural associations to market products, such as milk or pork, on a very large scale. But in order to market themselves as a tourist attraction, Leaping Deer had to do its own independent promotion.
The Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association has been a huge help in guiding them through that process, according to Julie.
Leaping Deer has faced additional challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic, but Julie says they weren’t worried about it.
“As farmers, we’re always used to change.”
In response to the pandemic, Leaping Deer launched an online store for people to place orders.
“That went over very well and I’m continuing that even though I’m opening the store again.”
In the future, the Budds want to focus on making Leaping Deer a space for the community. They plan on renting out spaces on the farm to families to hold gatherings and hosting local fundraising events.
Leaping Deer is a recipient of our Rural Oxford E-Business Grant, which was utilized to create their online store to sell their bakery products. To learn if you are eligible for the grant or to apply click here or email Crystal van Roekel at firstname.lastname@example.org.