Our Story

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Our Roots

A Family Tradition Since 1969

Rod and Marlene McKay at Willowtree FarmRod McKay always knew he wanted to be a farmer. At the ripe age of 19 he set out to buy a farm. Once Rod laid his eyes on the beautiful farm just outside Port Perry, he knew it was the perfect spot to “grow” his dreams.

After graduating from University, Rod began farming the land with cash crops and began dairy farming. Rod continued as a full-time dairy farmer for over 20 years. During this time, he met a very special lady, Marlene, who would become his wife.

Marlene grew up on a strawberry farm and brought with her a passion for producing the juiciest and most flavourful strawberries. In 1979, Rod surprised Marlene by planting four acres of strawberry plants. She was delighted! Marlene started selling her beloved strawberries out of a wagon on the side of the road. The acres of strawberries grew over time, with Marlene’s prodding and Rod’s willingness to make his wife happy.

Marlene’s dream kept growing, and as a result, other fruits and vegetables were planted. At some point, Marlene discovered farmer’s markets. She was hooked! We started out attending a few farmer’s markets at a time and expanded to selling our food at 15 markets throughout the GTA.

In 1990, Marlene and Rod set out on a new adventure — building a proper market on the farm. This market was a labour of love, which was evident by all who entered.

Marlene McKay at Farmer's MarketThe more produce they grew, the less time Rod had for milking cows. In 1993, Rod and Marlene sold their dairy herd to have more time to grow produce and raise beef cattle.

With Marlene’s ingenuity, business sense, and dedication, the farm was growing to a point where they needed help. Their two sons, Jordan and Alex, returned home from years away attending university in order to help their parents.

Jordan and Alex compliment each other’s strengths perfectly, not to mention have helped take the farm business to a new level. The family started attending more farmer’s markets, growing more produce, implemented a CSA farm share program, raising sheep, and a host of other projects.

In keeping with family traditions, the wives of Jordan and Alex now work full-time on the farm as well. The newest member of the family, Kelty and Alex’s son Ian, is already making important farm decisions from the safety of his stroller.

New Willowtree MarketIn 2015, a plan was set out to build a new market. The original market, full of character and personality, had become too small to fulfill the bustling dreams of the family. With the new market comes heat, a fresh butcher shop, the ability to stay open all year, and much needed space.

Tragically, Rod and Marlene both passed away, passing on the torch to their two sons, Jordan and Alex.

This business would not be what it is today without the fortitude, drive, and dedication of Rod and Marlene McKay. They dreamt a big dream, and lived each day embracing the beauty of this farm. Rod and Marlene will live on in these fields, in the produce we sell, and in the daily hustle and bustle of this family business.