coyote song farm

Woman whose pub was forced to close starts up farm just outside Toronto

A woman from Toronto whose pub was forced to permanently close exactly 10 years after she took it over has now been thriving on a small farm she started up outside of town.

Coyote Song Farm & Forest is located in Erin, and delivers CSAs, offers glamping, and sells produce, flowers and herbs.

It's run by Liz Guerrier, former owner of Dave's... pub on St. Clair West, which was known as a community hub where creative local people came together.

She operates it with the help of her partner, John, who has a 35-year career as a landscape gardener. Guerrier herself has been an avid gardener for years and is passionate about local food systems.

They started the farm together after the bar shut down, moving out to the country in December 2020.

"My partner John and I were coming up to his mother's property to walk in the forest, enjoy the fresh air and get away from the city. The beauty of the land and the calm of the countryside felt healing and was a strong draw," Guerrier tells blogTO.

"We started thinking about what we could do on the land to make a living and after a little research decided we would try and make a go of it and try growing food here."

They rent one of the two houses that are on the property, which is close to John's mother so they can help her out. While family and friends do help them with the farm from time to time, they've been able to do most of the work themselves so they don't have to hire staff.

Guerrier says one of the surprising ways her life has changed since moving away from the pub life and starting the farm is "fewer fries." She eats better, mainly in the form of home-cooked food which includes a lot of Coyote Song's own veggies.

"I watch birds more than people now. Life is much more isolated," says Guerrier. "For the first year or so everyone remained pretty isolated, so it didn't seem too different from what others were living. Now that things have opened up a bit more we feel the isolation a bit more."

"It would be nice to have a local pub we could walk to. Now I wake up early. My schedule has almost completely flipped from the Dave's... days. I wake when the sun is coming up and get sleepy soon after it gets dark." 

She confesses her new sleep cycle feels good like she's more in tune with nature, but there are some things about her new life that feel off-key.

"I play less music. This is a shame. We had an open mic at Dave's... with a whole host of great musicians that would come every Thursday. I took the opportunity to play with them as much as possible and made sure to practice so I wasn't too embarrassed. I am rarely picking up my guitar now, that's something I need to change," says Guerrier.

"I am less stressed. I loved very much the community and the staff that Dave's... brought together but I won't lie, it's a very challenging business and it was demanding on me all hours of the day and every day. I had few true days off and never got to turn my phone off."

While a bar owner's existence is now a memory, Guerrier still has an apartment at her mother's house in Toronto and visits regularly to help her with things. 

From spring to December, Coyote Song is a vendor at The Stop Farmers' Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns around the corner from where Dave's... was.

"It's been wonderful to see how much support we have had from our community and from so many of the people that were part of Dave's... world," says Guerrier.

"As for living in Toronto again, I'm not so sure. Our neighbourhood has changed a lot. It is so expensive to live there now as well. And I really love the fresh air and birds and being able to have a campfire any time we want."

As to returning to a pub or similar business to work, she'd "never say never," especially as she never thought she'd own a bar or run a farm before doing those things.

"In the current economy and the way the market is structured, I would not own a pub again. I don't know how the small independent ones that are left are surviving. You need to own the building or have an awful lot of capital behind you to be keeping it going with the prices of everything [being] so high now," says Guerrier.

"I think it is very sad that there are and will be fewer and fewer small independent restaurants and retail stores in the foreseeable future. I do still have a foot in the hospitality door though and I really enjoy that part."

The glamping aspect of the farm helps her scratch her "hospitality industry itch." For now, Guerrier sees the farm as her future and is hoping to continue to expand what they can produce and how much without using pesticides.

"It's pretty late in life for us to be starting this kind of venture and we are very aware that it will be getting harder each year for our bodies so we hope to build the farm business so that it will be manageable for us as we age," says Guerrier.

"As we look towards the future, I like to imagine that one day we will have some little grandkids around who can grow up knowing where their food comes from and how to grow it themselves. In many ways, it doesn't seem like there could be much more important than that."

Lead photo by

Coyote Song

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