B.C. Business Mentorship Network – City Beet Farm

Posted by Melanie Buffel on April 26, 2022

Young Agrarians is celebrating the eighth 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.

The 2022 Mentee Cohort have been working and planning with the support of their Mentors and we are  thrilled to profile them and wish them lots of success for the year ahead!

Watch out for applications to open again in fall of 2022!

Hello! My name is Liana, I use she/her pronouns, and I run City Beet Farm with my partner Duncan. My mentor this season is Gemma, previously of Zaklan Heritage Farm fame.  

Where do you farm? Please include the traditional territory acknowledgement if you know it.  What do you farm?

At City Beet we grow vegetables and flowers on residential front and backyards on the traditional, ancestral and unceeded territory of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil Waututh Nations, in what is known as Vancouver. Specifically, most of our 13 yards are in the Riley Park neighbourhood. 

What inspired you to get into farming?

To be frank, I wasn’t feeling very satisfied with the path I was on and I felt I needed to take a big leap and try something different, and the opportunity to take over City Beet came up at just the right time. My partner had worked on an urban farm called Backyard Harvest in Hamilton Ontario for four seasons, so that made it feel more feasible too. I’ve always loved being outside and working with my hands and the idea of taking on City Beet felt very hopeful and exciting to me. 

What did you do to learn how to farm?

Jumped in the deep end! I grew up in a family that gardens and values good food, and had done a small amount of volunteering on urban farms, but I didn’t have any significant farming experience. I anticipate I’ll continue to feel like I’m learning for the foreseeable future. 

What types of ecological farm practices do you use?

We use only hand tools, and don’t use any pesticides.

What type of business structure is your farm?

City Beet is set up as a Sole Proprietorship, and I am the sole proprietor. As far as how our produce goes out into the world, we sell our veggies through a CSA, mostly to people who live in the same neighbourhood where the veggies are grown! We sell our flowers through a similar subscription model. On top of that, we sell additional produce at a weekly pop-up market outside the Federal Store at 10th and Quebec. 

How much land is under production on your farm?

We operate on about 13 yards, totalling just shy of half an acre. Our biggest yard is out in the Southlands neighbourhood, and makes up half of our total space. 

What is your land tenure? Are there special relationships that enabled this (family, BCLMP)? 

We have informal agreements with the homeowners whose yards we use. We have access to the land and water in exchange for vegetables– and interesting landscaping! Our relationships with the homeowners are essential to City Beet’s operation, and we are very grateful to them! 

Why did you apply for business mentorship?

As I noted above, I don’t have any formal (or otherwise) training as a farmer. I’m really enjoying the ‘figure it out as you go’ approach, but I also wanted to be able to learn from an experienced farmer. Being located right in the city, and starting to farm during COVID also meant I didn’t meet many other farmers in my first year, and I was keen to meet more members of the farming community. 

What is the greatest business challenge you face as a new farmer? What is your primary business goal for the season?

Honestly, just knowing what needs to be done! When everything is so new, it’s hard to know what you don’t know, if you know what I mean. 

What business tools could you not live without?

Our website platform is pretty key for having an online store that lets people sign up for our CSA. Other than that, I’d say our Instagram account and our Mailchimp newsletter are pretty important for keeping people up to date on farm goings-on. 

If you had a farming robot what would it be?

Ooooo maybe a robot that does all the weeding? Not a very creative answer, but I like doing the farming, so why would I want a robot to do it for me?! Doing it myself is kinda the whole point! 

How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products? (website, FB, insta, twitter handles)

If you want to learn more about us, join our CSA, or say hello, you can find us at citybeetfarm.com, or @citybeetfarm on Instagram. You can email us at info@citybeetfarm.com. We also have a Facebook account but we don’t post on there much to be honest. We do have a newsletter that goes out weekly from June through October, which you can sign up for on our website. 

This season, we’re also running a GoFundMe to make it possible for us to grow veggies for Little Mountain Neighbourhood House’s Food Hub programming. Please check it out! 

Thank you! Liana

This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity and Columbia Basin Trust.