B.C. Business Mentorship Network – Elderberry Grove

Posted by Melanie Buffel on November 04, 2019

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 develops the skills necessary to operate ecologically sustainable and financially viable farm businesses. We love to profile our program participants and celebrate their efforts!

Applications now open for the 2019/2020 season. APPLY NOW!

Deadline extended to Monday, November 18th, 2019 – Program Application here!

What is your name, where do you farm, and who are your mentors?

Our names are Louise Lecouffe and Jed Wiebe and we operate Elderberry Grove. We farm in the Shuswap – unceded traditional territory of the Secwepemc Nation in Salmon Arm, BC.  Our Production Mentor is Carmen Wakeling from Eat More Sprouts in Courtenay, BC and our Business Mentor is Kristen Nammour. 

What do you farm?

Our farm is a dedicated elderberry farm.  We grow 25 elderberry varieties and produce juice, shrub and syrup, as well as some elderflower for sale.  This is in addition to a homestead farming endeavour in which we grow an ample supply of veggies for ourselves, as well as a handful of chickens and a gaggle of ducks.

What type of business structure is your farm?

We are a partnership

What is your land tenure? Are there special relationships that allow for this?

We farm on family land – owned by Jed’s parents, who also live on the property.  

What inspired you to get into farming?

The inspiration was an endeavour to get closer to nature.  We also thought that if we were the ones farming the land we could steward it in a way that is harmonious with nature.  More farmland needs good stewards and we can do our part especially with organic principles. Plus farming is a great lifestyle!

Elderberry hedge at Elderberry Grove 2019
Elderberry hedge at Elderberry Grove 2019

Why did you apply for business mentorship?

We applied for this opportunity because we are moving from farmers market (direct) sales towards selling in local shops.  We had questions about how to accomplish this process more smoothly – we thought we could learn from an experienced mentor.  And we have so far!

What is the greatest business challenge you face as a young farmer?

There seems to be very little accessible business support for startups especially in the value added agri-foods sector.  Thankfully our local farming community is open to collaborating and sharing knowledge. However, when you are farming a crop and creating a food-medicine product which is unique and innovative it can be really difficult to find someone to ask advice from.

What is your primary business goal for the season?

Our goal is to triple our harvest of elderberry and our production of elderberry syrup – and to keep finding the best way to get it to the people.

What business tools could you not live without?

SOP’s: Standard operating procedures such as the one we’re going to write this afternoon for making our elderberry shrub.  Each time we make shrub we think “this could be more efficiently done” because we either forget a step, and have to go back, or we waste time re-calculating ingredients.  Once we make our SOP it will be a lot more efficient because we won’t have to rethink each step.

Delicious elderberry shrub and elderberry syrup. Elderberry Grove 2019
Delicious elderberry shrub, Elderberry Grove 2019.

If you had a farming robot what would it be?

Our farming robot would probably do bookkeeping and all record keeping.

Where can I find out more?

We can be found at our new shop www.elderberrygrove.ca as well as on FB and Instagram handles: Elderberry Grove.

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.