Borrower Story — Filsinger’s Organic Foods

Did you know that apple cider vinegar has natural antibiotic and antiseptic properties? It absolutely does and has been used for centuries to help with a variety of ailments. This is just one example of the growing market of organic foods in the digital age. Consumers are bombarded by information regarding organic foods on social media and the internet and are now focused on the type of food they eat, whether they’re healthy or not, and how they impact the planet. Health is wealth, and that’s exactly what Filsinger’s Organic Foods believes in.

The organic farm was founded by Alvin Filsinger, who was awarded the Lifetime Organic Hero Award by the Canadian Organic Growers for his dedication and work in the organic industry. Not only do they grow apples and pears without the use of chemical herbicides or pesticides, but they also do all their own processing on the farm. They ensure to use the highest quality of fruit used in their products, such as their famous Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. 

We had a chance to have a chat with Filsinger’s Organic Foods’ current owner, Shaun, and find out how he came to take over the farm, what challenges he faced in the beginning, and how Lending Loop has helped his business growth.

Let’s start with the business. What is the origin story and how did you get going?

It was founded by Alvin Filsingers in the 1950s was one of the first organic farms in all of Canada.  Our family purchased the farm from Alvin in 2006. We were all familiar with the orchard and thought of it as a great business idea. Since then, we’ve come a long way. We planted more trees, remodeled the entire facility, installed all new processing equipment, and became federally registered. We want to be the farmer, grower, and actual manufacturer. 

Since Organic apples are difficult to grow in Ontario, we really focus on processing our apples and making a variety of products, like Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Apple Sauce, Sweet Apple Cider and our Well Cultured Sparkling Apple Cider Vinegar Beverages.

What challenges did you face in the first few years of the business?

The biggest challenge for us was actually growing the apples organically because we don’t have access to chemical herbicides and pesticides. It was hard to figure out what we had to do and how to take care of the trees. Besides that, I think that all small businesses have one challenge in common, and that is financial stability and cash flow. For us, purchasing equipment, planting orchards, and harvesting takes a lot of capital. We needed capital to invest in processing equipment, farm equipment, building upgrades, and our actual products.

How did you come across Lending Loop? What did the loan mean to you?

We received a mail about Lending Loop. I looked it up online, and as I was filling out the online form I got a call from them. Overall, I thought it was a pretty easy process and I went all the way through with it. During that time I was actually looking into getting financing from a bank but it was a long process. So I’m glad we decided to go with Lending Loop. We haven’t actually tried accessing capital for a year now. We’re in a good place.

How are things going for you now? 

We developed and launched a new drink, which is a sparkling apple cider vinegar that’s great for health reasons. A lot of people thought the flavour is harsh in the beginning. But with the funding we got from Lending Loop, we were able to develop the concept and make it better. The capital went towards research, packaging, marketing ads, and everything else needed to get the product launched. 

You can now find the drink in quite a few stores, such as Wholefoods, Metro, Sobeys, and smaller independent stores like Ambrosia. We strongly believe that once people try this new flavour, they would want to come back for more. So we are very happy with how things are going now!

What role does it play in the community?

All of our products include high-quality apples from Canada. We don’t use any imported concentrates, which is rare for our industry. We sometimes work with other farmers/ growers, depending on demand, which is one way to support Canadian farmers. Also, we increased our workforce and bought all of our equipment from Canadian manufacturers. 

Great! And what’s next for you?

We want to continue to do what we do best – innovate. We are currently working on some new products that will launch next year. I also have a couple of other product ideas that I’m hoping to bring to life in the next couple of years. We have also planted over 20,000 trees at our farm and plan to plant another 10,000 next year.