January 11, 2016

Prepared by Lois Harris for Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association

Paul Speck, President of Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery

Paul Speck, President of Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery

St. Catharines – Paul Speck is a forward-looking Ontario businessman who credits the Growing Forward 2 (GF2) program, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, for helping him build a more solid financial and environmentally sound footing for his growing vineyard and winery.

As the president of Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, Speck works with his brothers, Matthew and Daniel, to produce 100,000 cases of Vintners’ Quality Assurance (VQA) wine per year from 250 acres of grapes. Shorthills Vineyard is a division of the company. VQA wines are made to strict standards, including having 100 per cent Ontario grape content.

The winery has been very successful for 27 years, due in part to the family’s commitment to continuous improvement. While working on his latest 10-year forecast for the company’s growth, Speck determined that they would need to re-invest in several areas of the company.

After hearing a presentation about GF2, he realized he could get some help not only in terms of improving the efficiency of the winery’s infrastructure, but also the company’s succession plan.

Launched in 2013 and delivered to Ontario producers by Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, GF2 is a five-year federal-provincial initiative that encourages innovation, competitiveness and market development in Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sector.

The program has six areas of focus: environment and climate change adaptation, assurance systems, market development, plant and animal health, labour productivity enhancement and business and leadership development.

In recent years, Speck and his company have participated in four GF2 projects worth more than $550,000 in total project costs. They include:

Wastewater treatment

Henry of Pelham’s tile bed system had been in place for years and was no longer efficient. Speck knew that it would not be enough to handle the wastewater that would be produced.

Paul Speck, President of Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery and wastewater treatment

Paul Speck, President of Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery and wastewater treatment

“Our system was just coming to the end of its life,” Speck said. “We really didn’t want to have issues with being able to handle our wastewater.”

By working with a consultant, the company applied for two GF2 projects—one for planning and designing the new wastewater system and one for building it.

After obtaining all the appropriate environmental approvals and a year of construction work, the winery today has a state-of-the-art aerated lagoon treatment system. Now, all the wastewater produced from winemaking stays on the property, and the treated water is used for irrigation. The new system will allow for a 200 per cent increase in production.

Growing Forward 2 was a huge help in getting the system done quickly and with enough capacity for our forecasted growth,” Speck said.

Steam sanitation

The system used to sanitize wine bottles at Shorthills Vineyard was getting dated. It was using a lot of energy and water, and relied on the chemical caustic soda, in Speck’s words, a ‘nasty’ chemical with which employees had to be extra careful.

By switching the system over to a steam-based sanitizer, the company not only got a safer method for the employees, but the bottles come out cleaner. The steam-based sanitizer is better for the environment and uses less water than the previous system used. In fact, the company has reduced its water use by 800 litres per day during the 110 days of the year spent bottling. Overall, Henry of Pelham has cut the amount of water it uses by 250,000 litres per year.

An added bonus is that employees spend 60 per cent less time sanitizing bottles.

Succession planning

Since its launch in 1988, Henry of Pelham has grown to producing more than 40 times its original wine output of 2,400 cases per year and now employs 65 people. Paul Speck and his brothers have seven children among them who are getting older and will soon start looking at going into the family business as a career option.

“Our plans were done 12 to 15 years ago, and a lot had changed both with the family and the company,” Speck said. “We really needed to do the planning, in case something happens to one of us,” he added. That’s why he again took advantage of the GF2 program, by developing a business succession plan for the winery.

Speck recognizes the reluctance of some farmers and business people to go through succession planning – it means spending a lot of money hiring lawyers and accountants to figure out 40 to 50 pages of paperwork that doesn’t have any tangible value.

Henry of Pelham Family Estate WinerySuccession planning is the process of making arrangements for someone else to take charge of the business should anything happen to the owners or partners or should they decided to retire or move on to other pursuits.

“It’s not like investing in things that yield immediate returns, like new equipment, hiring people or marketing,” he said. “But it’s one of the most important things we’ve done for the future of the company.”

Henry of Pelham was re-organized as a result of the plan, putting it on a more solid foundation, complete with shareholder agreements signed by the three brothers.

“This paves the way for future generations if they choose to join the business,” Speck said.

GF2 satisfaction

Paul Speck said he would recommend the GF2 program to anyone. He noted that using the program can help producers make decisions that they might otherwise put off.

“It helps ramp up your investments—investments that are about growing the company, creating jobs and securing the future. It’s about being competitive,” he said.

GF2 program guidelines, workshop locations and registrations and additional information are available at www.ontariosoilcrop.org.

 

Application intake dates for 2016-2017 are:

February 5 to 25, 2016

June 17 to July 7, 2016

October 14 to November 3, 2016

 

For further information, contact:

John Laidlaw, 519-826-4218, jlaidlaw@ontariosoilcrop.org

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