Metchosin, BC: Heather Ramsay on Farming

Posted by Moss Dance on October 17, 2014 2 Comments

Heather with daikon

Heather Ramsay is a young farmer and business partner at Uminami Farm in Metchosin. She wants you to know: “Uminami Farm isn’t just me…it’s owned and co-run by Yoshiko Unno (the boss :-).  We also have three employees (one currently on maternity leave) and a host of volunteers, who are all integral members of the farm family. “

Heather is learning a lot about machinery maintenance at Uminami, and she’ll be sharing her skills and expertise with us at the October 26 Gathering in the Greenhouse at Uminami Farm

We love this farmer profile format created by the National Farmers’ Union! Check out more inspiring farmer profiles at their blog.

uminamisticker

Name: Heather Ramsay

Age: early thirties 

Farm name: Uminami Farm

Location: Metchosin, BC

What do you produce? vegetables, year-round, mostly specialty Japanese produce

Size of farm? the property is 10 acres, about 3.5 is undercultivation

Number of years farming?  This is my fifth year.  I was an apprentice for four years and business partner as of this year.  Traditionally, a Japanese apprenticeship is five years, so it kind of fits.

Heather on Uminami house porch

Farming background? None prior to Uminami.  I went through the agroecology program at UBC, which was great but didn’t involve practical farming experience.  I have some previous experience gardening, composting, and raising rabbits at home, and 2 years working in an ornamental plant nursery.  My highschool had an agriculture elective for grades 9-11, which I took, and I did my highschool work experience at a goat farm in Matsqui.

How do you market your product? box program, Moss Street Market, Tetoto food cart, Uchida Eatery, sometimes Share Organics, Tama Organic Life or other wholesale options 

How’d you come up with your farm name?  The farm was started by Yoshiko Unno and Tom Suganami back in Japan almost 30 years ago, and they kept the name when they moved their farm to Canada.  They got the name by combining the first Chinese character of “Unno” and the second Chinese character from “Suganami” to get “Uminami”, which means Ocean Wave.

What do you want your farm/farming career to look like in 20 years? I hope Uminami Farm will still be going strong in 20 years.  But whether it is or not, I hope I can continue farming in a way that is resilient to life’s changing seasons, as well as the the vagaries of climate and market demand.

Who are your farming mentors? Yoshiko and Tom have been great mentors.  Yoshiko has taught me so much about vegetable production, marketing, and a host of other farm things.  Sadly, Tom passed away a year after I started, but the greenhouses and other work he left behind keep on teaching me.  My neighbour, Peter Hammond, has also been an important mentor for all things mechanical and more.  Recently Billy Metcalfe has also been instrumental in helping me become more proficient in maintaining and repairing farm equipment.  These last two are particularly important since I’ve basically inherited Tom’s role after his passing, which means being the farm handy-person: using machinery, doing mechanical maintenance/repair work, light carpentry, electrical stuff and so on–a steep learning curve.

What book changed your world?  So many books have been influential to me.  I’m hoping that my current read, Fearless Farm Finances, will change my outlook to be more attentive to how what’s happening in the field relates to what’s happening for us financially.

What song are you loving right now?  I confess I’ve been singing alot of Backstreet Boys lately…an impromptu karaoke party in the vegetable packing room still has them stuck in my head…

Favourite farm tool? Currently, the stirrup hoe with an elongated handle added (which I learned when YA did the tour of Wind Whipped Farm in August)

For the next farming season, what are you most excited about? Growing more cucumbers, doing more mechanical work, and being more on top of what’s happening financially 

Heather with corn at Uminami

Dream dinner: what’s on your plate? Who’s sitting around the table with you? The meal is potluck, with lots of funky vegetable dishes from ours and other local farms.  All the great people I know from various aspects of my life are having a rare chance to sit at the same table, and they’re loving it.

What issue is most on your radar right now that will challenge your farming dreams? Alot of us young farmers are just that–young–and have few family responsibilities.  What happens if I have kids?  What happens when my parents get old and need care?  What happens when I’m not physically up to what I do now?

Farm fashion: What’s hot on your farm? Uminami Farm people tend to cover up a lot – long sleeves, long pants, full-cover footwear, hats and even towels hung from the back of hats are the norm here.  I like wearing Tom’s old work clothes.  I basically inherited his role when he passed away; I can’t fill his shoes, but I can wear his shirt and continue the work he was doing here.

What advice do you have for aspiring farmers?  Hang in there!  I found my first few years of farming extremely difficult, mostly because it was socially very isolating.  On one hand, it’s necessary to be patient while adjusting to the fact that farming means living with a schedule, budget and locality that in no way facilitate the type of social life many of us were previously used to.  On the other hand, I strongly encourage getting involved wherever you can.  Sitting on the board for our farmers market, making it a priority to get out to Young Agrarians/COG/other farm community activities, being resourceful about finding ways to volunteer etc. in other circles really helps to weave a social web that fits with farm life.  On-farm relationships with farm workers/volunteers, farming partners, etc. can also be valuable in filling the social gap if you’re intentional and open to cultivating that.

What’s your guilty pleasure?  Chocolate.

2 thoughts on “Metchosin, BC: Heather Ramsay on Farming

  1. I was looking for an address to Matheson lake and came across this post!! I love it Heather:) I think you are a amazing farmer and take such good care of the vegetables at Uminami. You are so good at speaking and writing Japanese too!! I feel so fortunate to be able to enjoy the vegetables everyday! My baby daughter Alexa love them all too! They are so delicious!!
    And I love chocolate too;)

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