How two local farmers grow flowers AND followers

John Cote and Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote operate a state of the art distillery while managing a large digital following. Here’s how they do it.

Just beyond the outskirts of Saskatoon, you might be surprised to find somewhat of a floral oasis. Except, this oasis makes good use of its flowers. Really good use. Black Fox Farm & Distillery is a non-traditional farm that combines agriculture with spirit production. With operations that span from field to social media, they’ve been 30+ year SaskTel customers on a mission to stay connected with their community.

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Owners Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote and John Cote are experienced, third-generation grain farmers that wanted to do things differently. Over the years they’ve travelled across Canada and the world finding inspiration in other cultures’ agriculture practices. Instead of taking the traditional grain operation route, they officially launched Black Fox Farm & Distillery in 2015. With this, they became highly specialized in producing gin, as well as whiskey and flavoured liqueur. The process of making gin can be tricky, but Barb and John figured it out and have the cred to prove it: their signature Black Fox Gin claimed the title of ‘World’s Best Gin’ in 2017.

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But what really sets their farm apart, is that their doors are open to the public—visitors can actually pick the flowers that go into making the spirits. And sometimes the phone is ringing off the hook! Throughout the growth of their business, they found themselves faithfully using the support of SaskTel’s business calling features to ensure a professional and reliable front line as they grew in popularity.

When people visit, they’ve also got a beautiful store front and an expansive green landscape where they host several community events. For example, they have weekly gin and tonic tastings, a very popular pumpkin festival throughout September, guided tours, and more. Community is important to them and they offer locals many ways to get involved at the farm.

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Speaking of community, a large part in how they’ve managed to stay connected to their audience is through their digital presence. From designing a stunning website, to posting the farm’s happenings on Instagram, they’ve definitely tapped into a winning formula. To foster daily engagement, they create events on Facebook people can join, they reply to any and all comments (whether positive or constructive), and they always post content that looks sharp and consistent with their brand.

All you have to do is take a quick glance at their Instagram feed, and you’ll realize how they’ve been able to build a brand that’s authentic to who they are.

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Understanding the value the digital space offers, many of Black Fox’s dedicated team members assist in running their social media. They also ensure an unmatched experience when people visit, making it an all-around fantastic customer experience.

But it all starts with Barb and John. Their philosophy about business and teamwork is what has truly made Black Fox a success. When asked about working alongside her husband for all these years, Barb says she “wouldn’t have it any other way.'' Barb is the go-getter and John is the methodical one. They balance out each other’s personalities and together they are an unstoppable force.

However, despite their personalities being opposite, they are very much on the same page when it comes to their environmental footprint. As big proponents of sustainable agriculture, Black Fox has employed a variety of modern technology to ensure minimal impact on the local ecosystem. They strive to work with the land to hone it’s natural bounty instead of changing its integrity. And it’s worked—part of what has made them such a draw for visitors is that they have encapsulated an authentic feeling of nature for people to experience.

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All in all, Barb and John’s commitment to the community is obvious. The reason they’ve made Saskatchewan their home despite their world travels is because they say the ‘people here are the best’. Running a business like Black Fox allows them to get the best of both worlds: they can innovate an entirely new agriculture offering in Saskatchewan while bringing people together.

With a strong sense of community both online and offline—and the best tasting gin in the world—life is good on the farm.

If your business wants to build a digital community like Black Fox Farm & Distillery has, see how SaskTel Business Solutions can help.

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