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!
We are Callum Bottrell and Megan Henwood of Digable Roots and we have been assigned Seann Dory of Salt & Harrow as a mentor.
Where do you farm?
At the foothills of Mount Prevost in Somenos, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island.
What do you farm?
Over 50 varieties of vegetables. A few that we love the most: tomatoes, peppers, drying beans, radicchio and corn. We tend to an apple orchard and raise ducks and chickens for meat and eggs.
What inspired you to get into farming?
Ultimately, our passion for good food. We love all aspects of food and want to share that with the community.
What did you do to learn how to farm?
As a partnership, we have individual experiences that brought us to the same place. When Megan came to the island she found her calling at Kildara Farms, a 30 acre organic family-run farm where she quickly became a member of the family and worked for 4 years as lead farmhand. Most of Callum’s experience comes from his 2 years on Long Now Farm, where he had arranged a work for stay to help a hobby farmer, Jim Pine, who became his friend and mentor. Callum has always been an avid home gardener and has WWOOFed in France and New Zealand.
What types of ecological farm practices do you use?
We are pesticide and herbicide free. We practice companion planting for pest control, sheet composting for soil amendments and giving our plants plenty of breathing space for disease resistance. Our crops include many nitrogen-fixing legumes which we rotate each year to accommodate the heavy feeders. One plot per season is left to rest, where we let our livestock forage for pests and fertilize.
What type of business structure is your farm?
We are a market business, meaning we bring our product to Farmer’s Markets on Southern Vancouver Island. We are, however, a bit different than the standard market farmer. We provide our farm’s yield to customers through a food cart serving sandwiches, soups, salads and grilled side dishes inspired by the flavours of the farm.
How much land is under production on your farm?
We lease 2.5 acres. 1.5 acres for mixed vegetable production, 0.5 acres for livestock and 0.5 acres for the orchard.
What is your land tenure? Are there special relationships that allow for this?
Beyond our leased acreage, we share responsibilities with the land owners to maintain the rest of the 8 acre property.
Why did you apply for business mentorship?
We are a brand new farm and have little experience with business management and record keeping. We wanted the help of an experienced, business-oriented farmer to introduce us to ways we can manage our finances and keep the business running successfully while also paying ourselves a livable salary.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a young farmer?
Our biggest challenge will be getting the business off the ground in an unfamiliar community.
What is your primary business goal for the season?
Establishing a farm that suits the needs of the food cart.
What business tools could you not live without?
If you had a farming robot what would it be?
One that would water our vegetables. We’d call it “Water Bot-tle.”
How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products? (website, FB, insta, twitter handles)
We have just started our Instagram account @Digable.Roots. Facebook soon to come.
This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity, Province of British Columbia, and Columbia Basin Trust.