Jennifer Whyte’s Barefoot Veggies – A FastStart DC success story

Jennifer Whyte’s interest in sustainable energy and living methods led her to the Renewable Energy program at Durham College (DC). But when she was faced with a serious health condition, Whyte was forced to change course — literally. She transferred to DC’s Office Administration – General program, and was inspired to make another move after taking a business course.

Whyte joined DC’s Entrepreneurship and Small Business program, where she met members of the FastStart DC team. During this time, she also came up with an idea to combine her passions for sustainability and business. Under the guidance of FastStart mentor Jay Fisher, she began to fill in her knowledge gaps and build a business. “Jay really made me aware of the realities of running a business,” said Whyte. ”His experience made him a great guide who could point me in the right direction.”

With a goal to provide fresh, local vegetables from her garden to her community, and a habit of picking them barefoot, Whyte officially launched Barefoot Veggies, an urban organic farm in Oshawa, Ontario, on July 15, 2015. She even threw a successful, sponsored launch party where not even rain could stop DC representatives and other attendees from showing up to support Whyte’s exciting venture and sample the produce.

Since its launch, Barefoot Veggies has captured the attention of local media and benefited from strong word of mouth that’s drawing customers from surrounding areas, including Courtice and Brooklin. The unique Barefoot Veggies shopping experience of buying groceries that can be picked at the time of purchase sets Whyte’s business apart from conventional grocery stores.

Whyte’s garden is also becoming an experiential learning ground where children discover the nature of healthy foods while having fun and picking their own green beans and tomatoes. Parents are drawn to Barefoot Veggies to not only buy fresh organic produce for their families, but to also let their kids explore a fun, new side to nutrition.

Following the recent milestone of Barefoot Veggies’ one-year anniversary, Whyte is now turning her attention to growing her team and expanding her business. She’s planning to build an irrigation system for the raised beds that were recently added to the farm, and her greenhouse includes a nutrient filtration system with the potential to support over 1,000 plants. Her five-year plan also includes keeping her home open as office space and expanding through partnerships with community-based organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity.

Whyte is also looking to move her business toward the edible landscaping field, where she can teach people how to use their lawn space as a garden and grow their own fresh food. She hopes to continue teaching kids about growing their own food and has several ideas for continuing education courses on organic farming that she’d like to teach, perhaps even at Durham College.

“It’s comforting to know that FastStart is always around and I can always come back for help,” said Whyte. “I didn’t know much about business when I started, but it really helped me out.”

Asked if she now has advice for students with a dream or a business idea, Whyte shared: “If you just ask, stuff happens — you can’t sell a secret. Just do it. Don’t overthink it and it will come together.”

For more information or to connect with Barefoot Veggies: