The inaugural 1st Generation Farmers Conference was a day of great connections and great ideas! More than 50 farmers, aspiring farmers, and farm supporters drove out to Rosy Farms, where we gathered to learn about marketing, business planning, building community, and everything in between.
Although it was a cool August day, we made the most of it by enjoying our delicious lunch around a campfire. This feast featured local Alberta producers including Ruby Apron, Steve & Dan’s BC Fruit, Herbologie , Chicks-n-chaps, Rosy Farms, Reclaim Organics, Meuwly’s, Confetti Sweets, The Northern Table, and MoJo JoJo.
Telling Your Story
Aga Wajda-Plytta (Herbologie) gave an in depth look at how farmers and food producers can tell customers their story. Storytelling is the new form of advertising and small-scale farmers can not only sell the food they grow, but also the values and story behind the food. By focusing on the “why” – why we farm the way we do – farms can effectively communicate how their farm and their food addresses the needs of their customers. Telling your story is not just a way to market your products but a method of creating a meaningful brand that inspires, educates, informs, entertains, rewards, and helps your community. Check out Aga’s full presentation here!
Grants – The Prosperity of Paperwork
Andrew Rosychuk (Rosy Farms) shared how he is able to use grants to help his farm grow. This grant-guru recommends that farms seek out grants to build infrastructure and increase farm capacity. When applying for grants, ensure you focus on keywords like “innovation” and “job creation” and don’t hesitate to reach out to the funding agencies to make sure your project is a good fit for the grant. And the biggest tip for successful grant applications is to start early – make sure you have all the supporting documents well in advance because farming schedules and grant schedules often clash! Check out Andrew’s full presentation (with links to great grant resources) here!
Get Your Head in the Game
Bryanna Yung (Bar OA Farms) gave us the low-down on how to be a farmer with a side-hustle. Her advice when trying to juggle multiple commitments includes finding methods that allow you to be efficient with your time and knowing that the commitments you have embody your values. Bryanna talked about how she is motivated to be a farmer because she wants her daughter to grow up walking around barefoot in the soil and knowing where her food comes from. Check out Bryanna’s full presentation here!
Ryan Mason (Reclaim Organics) talked about considerations to keep in mind when selecting how to process and package the food you grow. Making your products stand out is no easy job but Ryan recommends simple value-adding processes such as making mixes or variety packs and having different portions for different customers. When selecting packaging it can be helpful to look at industry standards and make sure that your labels comply with CFIA requirements.
AFSC Unique Financial Services
Ed Ten Hove (Agricultural Risk Management Consultant, AFSC) gave a great presentation about how farmers can best approach lending agencies, such as the AFSC. He recommends that farmers start talking to a lending agent early on to make sure that both sides are clear on how much money is available and how loan payments will be made. However, loans are only one way of gaining access to capital and farmers need to be comfortable with debt and be confident in their ability to make payments. Check out Ed’s full presentation here!
Educate, Anticipate, Celebrate, Inspire
Bri Vos (RYE Marketing, Detour Photography) talked about her experience working with farms and other food producers to develop their brand identity. She said that first and foremost, a farm needs to write a clear mission statement that defines 1) what you do, 2) your target audience, 3) your promise to customers, and 4) your vision for the future that you invite the customer to be a part of. Any marketing content should then fit within those four pillars and should showcase your product, values, process and vision. In this way, your brand identity and marketing content becomes interesting and useful and can provide value to your customers. Check out Bri’s full presentation here!
How Local Food Builds Community
Kaelin Whittaker (The Ruby Apron) led the whole group in a discussion about local food and building community. Participants talked about how eating local contributes to food security and improved food access, empowers farmers to be land stewards, and (perhaps most importantly) means that the food you eat is fresh and delicious! Kaelin also talked about her experience teaching people about how to cook and source local food and what it means to eat food that is seasonal and grown sustainably.
Igniting your Startup with Business Link
David Bayda (Senior Business Advisor at Business Link) gave us a brief overview of the incredible diversity of support that Business Link has for people starting a business. Business Link is a nonprofit that offers free business help for entrepreneurs. They provide one-on-one support and guidance, market research, access to experts, training, networking opportunities, and specialized support for Indigenous entrepreneurs. This organization is a one-stop shop for any questions you might have about starting or running your farm business! Check out David’s full presentation here!
Farmer 2.0, it’s all good- we got you!
Leanne McBean (Business & Economic Development Specialist, Sturgeon County) talked about the services and support that counties can offer to new farmers. She recommends connecting with your county representatives to make sure that you are connected with other farmers and businesses in your region. Counties can help source funding for your farm and find solutions to your farm challenges by connecting you with the right people. Having a strong local community is key to a happy life in rural areas so make sure to build relationships with those around you!
And no conference on a fruit orchard would be complete without some time picking berries and sampling the diverse haskap varieties! Thank you Rosy Farms for hosting the event and connecting new and aspiring farmers in Alberta!
Young Agrarians Apprenticeship Update
The YA Alberta Apprenticeship cohort collided at Rosy Farms, where we visited 3 farms on Friday, spent the day filling our brains with farming wisdom at the 1st Generation Farmers Conference on Saturday, and then capped the weekend off with a farm tour and potluck at Reclaim Organics – where Kay (one of the awesome YA Apprentices) is market gardening with Ryan Mason. We shared our collective experiences, challenges, and successes from our respective farms over campfires, birthday cakes, and pancake brekky. Some rosier moments for us this season? Animals coming when we call and going where we want, troubleshooting equipment breakdowns, massive veggie harvests and successful farmers markets, finding a semblance of balance with on-and-off-farm life, and camaraderie with one another. Cringe-worthy moments? Animals at large, massive veggie harvest mix-ups, equipment breakdowns, second-language slip-ups, and running on fumes. Next up: apprenticeship meet-up in Goodfare for the annual Ranch BBQ, then Dylan Biggs’ Low-Stress Livestock Handling Course in September! See you there!
A huge thank you to everyone that has helped shape this event!
- Sturgeon County
- Business Link Edmonton
- Haskap Alberta Association
- Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association
- Organic Alberta