The journey from being the son of a peach farmer to pot czar might seem highly improbable and it could be, unless your name is Vic Neufeld and life on the farm laid a foundation for your future success. Little did Neufeld know the discipline and work ethic demanded by his father would guide him through a number of careers and near catastrophes and allow his life to become “a helluva ride.”
At a time when most people are heading to retirement, Neufeld is running a multi-billion-dollar marijuana enterprise, sitting on multiple boards of directors and travelling the world. In just four short years he and his partners—John Cervini and Cole Cacciavillani—have taken their company Aphria from zero worth to $2.5 billion. No mean feat and certainly not for the faint of heart. He is quick to credit his drive, passion and energy with the lessons he learned as a farm boy.
During the 1960s he and his three brothers worked long hours on the family farm with their hardworking father. George Neufeld came to Canada from Germany after World War II, penniless and eager to start a new life. After sharecropping for a number of years he saved enough money to buy the farm that still exists on the first concession in Mersea Township.
“Those were tough years, very labour-intensive, and Dad was in seventh heaven with four boys. He was very disciplined, not like the Gestapo, but he certainly made sure we did our share,” Neufeld says, laughing. “The only day off was Sunday. That day was for family and church. He was determined we would learn the value of a dollar and the importance of working hard to earn a living. That framed how I grew up and who I became later in life.”
Neufeld’s days at Gore Hill Public School and later as a star athlete in basketball and baseball at UMEI Christian High School also left him with great memories. So much so that even today, when he is on a business call, he will put on his car’s Bluetooth and drive around his old neighbourhoods and Point Pelee. He wasn’t an A-student and wishes he had more time then to play golf. It’s still on his bucket list. He played hockey with his brothers and their friends but, because his father would buy only two pairs of skates, Neufeld the goalie played in a pair of iconic black rubber boots with a red band around the top.