Young Agrarians is celebrating the sixth year of the Business Mentorship Network (BMN) program. The BMN offers business mentorships to a diverse array of new and young farmers across BC. Through one-on-one mentorship and peer networks, young farmers develop the skills necessary to operate ecologically sustainable and financially viable farm businesses. We love to profile our program participants and celebrate their efforts!
My name is Amber Rowse-Robinson from Brass Bell Farm and my Mentor is Blake Hall from Prairie Gold Meats in Alberta.
Where do you farm?
I farm in Sooke, BC.
What do you farm?
I raise and sell heritage breed grass-fed beef and pastured chicken.
What inspired you to get into farming?
For me, farming has been a calling for as long as I can remember. I have always loved animals and been passionate about food, and while I didn’t grow up on a farm, I started buying my own poultry and livestock almost as soon as I was out of high school. Like the saying goes “I wasn’t born in a barn, but I got there as fast as I could!” While I have always known farming would be a part of my life, it took a number of other attempted career paths and about 10 years of hobby farming before I felt ready to commit to it as a business.
Food security and food sovereignty, animal welfare and regenerative farming practices are all extremely important to me. It seemed the best way to do my part was on the ground, producing food, and engaging with my community.
What did you do to learn how to farm?
I researched researched researched! Countless hours reading books, blogs, and websites… I attended workshops, I asked farmers if I could help out on their farm when there was a specific skill set I wanted to learn. I lived on a working farm for a year while I attended university. I started small – just a couple sheep, or one pig etc to get a feel for a species before I decided exactly what I wanted to focus on. I’m 10 years in and still feel like I have so much to learn, but that’s what keeps me going – I love to try new things.
What types of ecological farm practices do you use?
We are a grass-based farm. Our beef cattle don’t receive any grain, and we don’t use any broad-spectrum antibiotics or medications. In acute situations where an animal requires treatment for an illness or injury, we simply won’t sell that animal to the public. We don’t use sprays or pesticides of any kind in the land, but are learning to use our animals to enhance existing ecosystems instead.
What type of business structure is your farm?
I operate as a sole proprietor.
How much land is under production on your farm?
We farm 25 acres at our home base and then lease additional pasture to extend our grazing.
What is your land tenure? Are there special relationships that allow for this?
We lease the farm we live on. When we first moved in it was supposed to only be for three years, but circumstances changed and we are able to be here long-term.
Why did you apply for business mentorship?
Although I have been farming in some capacity for 10 years, and selling products for the last two – the transition from hobby farm to business left me with a lot of questions. I also really wanted to learn more about how best I could manage my cattle in a way that was beneficial for the land. There aren’t many cattle enterprises in my area, so being connected with a mentor who has the specific experience I was seeking has been amazing.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a young farmer?
Land access is first and foremost my greatest challenge, but tied into that is overall access to the farming scene. I don’t come from a farming background so all of my contacts and relationships I have built from scratch. It can be overwhelming at times to try and learn the hands-on skills while simultaneously learning the admin side of things when it feels as though you’re doing much of it in your own. That’s what has been so great about this program – It has been a game changer to have a mentor who helps guide me through challenges I’ve been having for years, in a matter of minutes over the phone!
What is your primary business goal for the season?
This year my goal is to have our business identity locked down (we have a new farm name and I’m just starting to rebrand!) and to have a framework for moving forward that will allow us to expand and eventually become profitable. Because cattle are slow-growing compared to vegetables, it’s a bit of a long game, but I’m really excited about it.
What business tools could you not live without?
My phone because it’s the central tool for all business communication.
If you had a farming robot what would it be?
Honestly that’s hard – I love most of what I do on the farm day to day and wouldn’t want to give much of it up. Maybe it could clean my house so I could spend more time outside with the cows!
How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products? (website, FB, insta, twitter handles)
I currently have a website and Facebook page in the works. I am on instagram as @littlefarmontheriver, and my email address is email@example.com. If folks send me an email, I can add you to our list and all new updates about the launch of our site and any product information will be sent through there.
This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity, Province of British Columbia, and Columbia Basin Trust.