What is your name, where do you farm, and who are your mentors?
My name is Kate Fraser and I run Bees Please Farms in and around Victoria, BC. My business mentor is Seann Dory from Salt and Harrow Farm in Parksville, and my production mentors are Deb and Liam at Six Legs Good Apiaries in East Vancouver.
What do you farm?
I rent out bees and chickens around the lower island! For the bees, it is a way for people to support bees without having to learn to be a beekeeper. For the chickens it is a way for people to try backyard chickens without committing to doing it themselves.
I also recently added chicken hatch rentals as well where people get the incubator and everything they will need for the hatch and two weeks beyond.
What type of business structure is your farm?
I am an affiliate with my chicken rentals, and I started the bee program on my own as a sole proprietor.
What is your land tenure? Are there special relationships that allow for this?
We bought 3 acres to allow us the space to house our chickens and bees.
What inspired you to get into farming?
When we bought our first house I suddenly got an intense desire to grow our own healthy food. Within a year, that expanded into chickens and bees as well and soon the business was born.
Why did you apply for business mentorship?
I wanted to get help with tackling expansion, marketing, hiring and other major milestones that I am facing.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a young farmer?
The greatest challenges I face are those that I face in other areas of life as well: Time and Money! Takes one to make the other, and it requires constant evaluation to see which ones we have, and which ones we need, and what decisions make the most sense. Since I started the business, I have held two other jobs, and I have two young children. Paying a farm sized mortgage in one of the most expensive cities in Canada takes a lot of careful planning, and a bit of jumping in head first. This calendar year I am dropping both of the extra jobs and will be putting all of my time into the business.
What is your primary business goal for the season?
This season I am hiring my first employee!
What business tools could you not live without?
I love my accounting software Xero, and my GPS. I don’t know if GPS is a business tool, but it sure is helpful for the first part of the season until I memorize how to get to all of my bees around the city. This year I am on course to have 40 different locations around Victoria.
If you had a farming robot what would it be?
Someone to fill up feed buckets! The bees need to eat, A LOT. Filling and stirring sugar syrup buckets is heavy, tedious, sticky work.
Where can I find out more?
The Business Mentorship Network Program is now accepting applications for the 2020 cohort. Check out the Business Page for more information and fill in the application here. Application deadline is November 18, 2019.
This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity, Province of British Columbia, and Columbia Basin Trust.