Spry Farm facing insurance woes

By Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer

At the end of April, The Spry Farm posted to their Facebook page asking members in the community to help them look for a commercial liability insurance policy, something they never thought they would have to do, Leanne Spry said.

“I wasn’t actually anticipating this. We had a commercial insurance policy through Wawanesa [Insurance] for two years prior to this and we cancelled it in 2020 just because it didn’t look like we were going to be able to operate,” Spry said. “We didn’t think that it would be an issue getting a policy because we had already had one and no incidents, no claims so it kind of came out of left field for us.”

Spry said Gillons Insurance Brokers reapplied to Wawanesa Insurance on their behalf but were denied, adding that she is not sure why they declined their application.

Wawanesa Insurance was not the only company to decline their application, all other agencies that Gillons Insurance Brokers sent applications to also declined to provide insurance.

Spry said Wawanesa covers their homeowner’s insurance policy and were told that if they continued providing agritourism services without a commercial insurance policy, that will not cover they homeowner’s insurance policy either.

The post has since been shared 66 times and the community has rallied together in the comments, offering advice, empathy and contact information for insurance agencies.

Spry said they have a list of agencies and or agents that people have suggested that they are reaching out to, which is a lengthy process in itself.

“We’re kind of floored by the support that we’ve had,” Spry said. “People see that there’s a value in what we do here and that they enjoy coming here. But that’s kind of where we’re at. We’re just filling out applications and responding to emails, phone calls. I’m hoping we find something.”

Spry said they have reached out to a few agencies in southern Ontario, Kenora, Dryden and Thunder Bay, to name a few.

As vaccinations continue to be administered in the region, Spry said they were hoping to be able to have farm tours and petting zoos again, a main operation of their business and the reason why finding insurance is important.

“We only operate seasonally with that too. We would have the animals even if we didn’t do this, but I just redid my entire business plan with agritourism being a large part of our sales,” Spry said. “In 2020 we didn’t have a single person out because of COVID and so many people have told us that they miss it, and we miss having people. We thought it would be a temporary thing.”

Spry said she has a friend in Murillo that has been going through the same thing since 2018, adding that this makes her less optimistic of finding insurance for this year.

The liability insurance policy would cover The Spry Farm if anything happened to go wrong.

“[Insurance companies] don’t want to have to cover the liability aspect of it as a business because they feel like it’s too high risk with people and animals being in close proximity to each other,” Spry said.

Spry adds that they were very fortunate with finding insurance in the past.

“Our saving grace in a way is that we have all miniature animals, so the risk is lower. If you had a full-sized horse, or full-sized cow your risk assessment goes up,” Spry said.

Although Spry said she is not optimistic about the outcome, she is not ready to give up, adding that there are ways those in the community can help.

Some of those options include writing a testimonial explaining that you felt safe or that the risk was low when you came to The Spry Farm or how you feel it is an asset to the community. Testimonials can be emailed to thespryfarm@gmail.com.

Members of the public can also contact them directly if they know someone that has a policy similar to what the Sprys are looking for.

Sarrinna Thomopolous enjoyed a ride on Sawyer, as Shelby Kellar leads the way at a Spry Farm Public Day, in 2019. The popular destination closed its gates during the pandemic, and has run into a snag in their re-opening preparations.
– File photo