Canada-wide Toll Free:

Member Spotlight: Peggy O’Neil, The Song Inside Inc

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Providing a spark of inspiration for the food system transformation: How Peggy O’Neil started the radio show Food for the Future to bring the humanities into today’s future food dialogue

If you ask home economist and radio show host Peggy O’Neil about her passion for agri-food, she’ll tell you she comes by it honestly.

As farm girl from Middlesex County, Ontario, she’s all too familiar with the challenges and joys of agriculture life.

“I grew up in the meadows, picking daisies, and smelling the clover,” she said, admitting that it was quite poetic. “It was very formative in my early years to see the sunrise and sunset, to work with the land and on the land, to watch the seasons change, and to see how my family was making a living.”

After graduating high school, Peggy attended agricultural college before starting work in healthcare and nutrition field. She went on to obtain several certificates and degrees, including her PhD in Education from the Western Faculty of Education, Critical Policy, Equity and Leadership Studies. 

 In 2008, she became an assistant professor at Brescia University College’s department of Food and Nutritional Sciences and Leadership Studies. During this time, she noticed there was something missing from the discussion about agri-food and the future of food production: hope.

The challenges of creating a sustainable food system include tackling interrelated issues like poverty and hunger, food loss and food waste, a rapidly increasing world population, climate change, as well as unsustainable agricultural practices. These issues can seem insurmountable, even to those working within the agri-food space.

“I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed and a lot of people I talked to, were starting to feel a little overwhelmed – that was leading to inaction,” she explained. “I wanted to share some of the positive stories so that together we can move the dial.”

As she explored her goals for creating content, she realized that she could bring the humanities – philosophy, history, and the arts – to the food dialogue in order to inspire change. This would also allow her to also foster connections between people and food, agri-food experts, as well as the farmers that produce and grow our food.

“I wanted to highlight farmers and families because I think they actually have a shared voice,” she said. “Farmers can't produce food for any less and families can't pay anymore. It seems like they're far apart in the continuum, but they actually both face a lot of the same challenges: a lot of debt, a lot of mortgages, tight timelines, deadlines, and some uncertainty in the future.”

With a firm grasp on the type of content she wanted to create and sell, she turned her attention to building the business infrastructure that would best support her efforts. To that end, she founded and incorporated her own Canadian arts and entertainment company – The Song Inside, Inc. – where she acts as executive producer and  creative director.

After incorporating four years ago, she took a brief pause due to commitments at the university ramping up before setting her sights on getting her show on the air.

Just over a year ago, she launched her inaugural radio show, Food for the Future. The show airs every Saturday on Global News’ CFPL 980 and addresses topics like food waste, city farming, and cooking at home through the lens of the humanities. 

Peggy and her show enjoyed some big wins right out of the gate. First, she secured sponsors to cover the cost of the radio show’s production – a rare feat without an established track record in this medium. Then, on her very second episode about food waste, she secured Vimlendra Sharan, then Director of United Nations’ (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization for North America, as a guest. 

“I know it's hard to close a high-profile guest, but the UN believed in me from the time I started this show,” she said, adding that the UN not only returned to the show for World Food Day, but also promotes the show in their newsletters. “For a start-up, that's a really big deal.” 

For Peggy, the early success of her show and, by extension, her media company was all about knowing her message and her purpose.

“I think I got what I wanted so early – a show, sponsors, the United Nations on the second episode – because they knew exactly what the show was about, and exactly what my ask of them was.”

She also believes part of her success can also be attributed to finding the right partners and putting her trust in them and their competence.

“One of the most valuable lessons that I've learned is to not try to do everything myself, or think that I know it all,” she said. “I have success today because I picked the right partners, including FBC. And they were with me from the very beginning, even when it was just an idea.”

Peggy relies on FBC for tax support as well as Corporations Canada compliance.

“Those are the two broad services that I get from FBC,” she explained, “But it isn't really all that I got. I got regular market updates. I got strategic advice.” 

The advice she received covered everything from what would give her the best Return On Investment (ROI) to where to allocate her resources as a business. Most importantly, FBC helped her understand the tax breaks she could use to maximize every single dollar she earned as a new business.

“The FBC team answered the questions I had. They really helped me avoid very, very costly mistakes: cost of capital mistakes, and costly operating mistakes.”

When it comes to her relationship with her Local Tax Consultant Greg Shoniker, Peggy describes it as one of mutual caring and admiration.

“I don't think I've ever waited 24 hours for a return call and that's a testament to Greg,” she said. “It’s not that he's doing it for show or customer satisfaction surveys – he sincerely cares.”

Whether it’s a quick call or text, she knows she can rely on Greg and the entire FBC team to provide sound tax advice.

“I love that about FBC – that whatever is going on in business or agri-food in Canada that is income tax related or otherwise – there is an entire practice base, right there, ready on the other end of the phone,” she said.

“I have experienced being oversold and under delivered. And I find that FBC sold and over- delivered and that’s very rare.”

Looking to the future, Peggy and her arts and entertainment company show no signs of slowing down. In addition to recently surpassing her 100-show milestone, she is finalizing a book with her publisher and developing a series for television – all while still teaching at the university. 

To subscribe or listen to episodes of Food for the Future, visit Global News. To learn more about Peggy’s media company and her latest projects visit The Song Inside website.

We're Where You Need Us To Be

Find out how we can help
you like we help Peggy.