Young Agrarians is celebrating the seventh 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 2021 Mentee Cohort are hard at work planning for the season ahead and we are thrilled to profile them and celebrate their efforts!
JJ White is the farmer at Flora & Fungi Farm, and they are mentored by Andrew Rushmere of Glenora Farm.
Where do you farm?
I am very grateful to farm on the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the Quw’utsun’ people in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.
What do you farm?
I farm market vegetables and fruit, medicinal herbs, and mushrooms.
What inspired you to get into farming?
I was inspired to farm after years of developing relationships with plants through Traditional ecological knowledge and growing food in urban landscapes while going to university. I realized that the moments that made me feel the most connected and alive where the times I had the privilege of working with plants and doing restoration work in native ecosystems.
What did you do to learn how to farm?
I participated and helped run the university community gardens and in the summers I volunteered at friend’s farms. After school I travelled and worked on farms around BC, learning different ideas and ways of farming. I worked for 4 years before deciding to start my own farm.
What types of ecological farm practices do you use?
I use many practices of what we call “regenerative agriculture” . Many of these practices were used traditionally by Indigenous peoples, African and black American farmers, along with my own Gaelic ancestors. We need to do more work to acknowledge and give restitution for this traditional knowledge and technology.
I also take my teachings from watching forest ecosystems and trying to mimic certain aspects in my use of fungi, living covers, and other micro-organism within my entire farming practice.
What type of business structure is your farm?
My farm is currently a sole proprietorship, though in the future I hope to transition towards a co-operative model.
How much land is under production on your farm?
The land is farmed by myself and another farmer. This year my farm will be around 1 acre in constant production. I “farm the forest” as well though I do not consider this part of my production. It is my obligation to this land to create more diversity for everyone and everything I share the land with.
What is your land tenure?
My current land tenure is a three year lease on land owned and farmed by a friend. My previous land tenure was terminated due to the owner selling the land. I know the owner of this land, however the services provided by the BC Land Matching Program delivered by Young Agrarians really helped make the details easier to negotiate between the two of us.
Why did you apply for YA business mentorship?
I applied in hopes of learning a lot from a farmer elder in my region who would be able to help me be more efficient and confident when it came to the business side of running a farm.
The business side of farming has never been enough of a priority to me compared to working with plants and feeding people. As I grow, I realize I need to be able to have capacity and security to do many initiatives, and collaborations outside of the capitalist framework of farming. Being better organized and on top of the business will lead to more time and energy that I can put into many of the things that motivate me to farm in the first place.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a young farmer?
The necessary time and capital to fund the operation in the first couple seasons. We need more support and government funding for small farmers and food producers.
What is your primary business goal for the season?
To have the farm become more financially and ecologically stable.
What business tools could you not live without?
I couldn’t live without spreadsheets, Quickbooks and my accountant.
If you had a farming robot what would it be?
It would throw sticks for my dog, plant and tend to trees and be a nursery for biological soil life.
How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products?
Also no better way to get to know the farm and myself than a good old farm fence chat or even better yet a weeding party! haha JJ
Find out more about the Business Mentorship Program here.
This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity and Columbia Basin Trust.