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 Elly Rakhmetouline and I own and run Late Bloomers Flower Farm. I’ve been lucky enough to have two mentors this season; a business one and a production one. The incredibly smart, persistent and helpful Kristen Nammour has been helping me whip the business aspect of the farm into shape. Amie Bengtson of Back Country Blooms in Lumby, BC is my flower growing mentor helping me wrap my brain around producing flowers in a more efficient way.
Where do you farm?
On the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish Nations of Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish peoples, that is currently known as Burnaby BC.
What do you farm?
Predominantly cut flowers with a couple of rows of vegetables thrown in for snacking and self sufficiency.
What inspired you to get into farming?
I used to work in the fashion industry and got tried of selling folks things they didn’t need that were produced in a way I could no longer stand behind. I discovered and fell in love with Urban Farming about 7 years ago and it shifted everything for me. You see the world and what it needs from you as an individual so differently when you teach folks how to grow their own food or present them with a bouquet you grew yourself from seed.
What did you do to learn how to farm?
When I left my desk job, I knew nothing about farming and figured I should learn how to use tools properly and see if I was even physically cut out for it or the elements. I knew no one would hire me to farm right away but I figured someone would hire me to landscape, so I emailed every landscaper listing on Craigslist and said that I was a really hard worker and that if I didn’t meet their standards that they could get rid of me after a week. One awesome small company took me in and showed me the ropes. I spent 6 months working with them just seeing if I could even handle being outdoors and doing physical labour for that long every day – and it turned out that I definitely could and even more importantly, that I loved it and thrived in that environment. Shortly after that I got an internship with Victory Gardens, a local worker owned co-op that teaches folks how to grow their own food and not long after that, I became their first employee. I also worked for The World In A Garden and did markets for Cropthorne Farm. I read a lot of farming books and went to conferences and did workshops and met experienced farmers and asked them questions and found opportunities to physically try growing things.
What types of ecological farm practices do you use?
Late Bloomers is all organic everything. We’re not certified because we lease our land, but we operate like any other organic farm, just without the paperwork.
What type of business structure is your farm?
Late Bloomers is a sole proprietorship. I started the business with my friend Michelle but after we lost our first piece of land, her and I went our separate ways and she now co-owns Valley Buds Flower Farm in Squamish.
How much land is under production on your farm?
We are on a 3 acre property that we share with a bee keeper and a vegetable farmer and we’ll be farming 3/4 of an acre in 2020.
What is your land tenure? Are there special relationships that allow for this?
We sublease from Riana Zietsman of Neighbourly Bee who holds the main lease on the land and also keeps bees on it. The land is privately owned by a religious organization but has been a farm for the past ten years and remains in the ALR.
Why did you apply for business mentorship?
While Late Bloomers is going into it’s fourth year of business, this is the first time it’s been on the same property for two years in a row, making this the year we finally have a chance of making a solid go of it without having to start from scratch.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a young farmer?
Finding affordable land for lease and keeping that land for long enough periods of time that it makes sense to invest in the land and put in place structures that make it easier for you to farm productively and efficiently. Also, raising the capital you need to properly get your operation off the ground. If you’re doing this as a hobby, that’s totally great and you can build up a garden slowly over many years, but if you’re building a business, you need the proper capital to invest in all the things you need to get your business off the ground and be self sufficient because working another job to support your farm is the quickest way to burn out.
What is your primary business goal for the season?
Bring on 5 new accounts to stock our flowers and run a series of workshops. Continue to put beauty into the world and educate folks on where flowers typically come from and why it’s important to buy those that are grown locally and organically.
What business tools could you not live without?
I have a planner I write everything into, my to-do lists, deliveries, dates to remember, goals etc – I’d be lost without it. When you’re in the middle of the season and up to your eye balls in flowers, dirt and deliveries, it’s important to have one spot where all that information lives and you can dump your brain into.
If you had a farming robot what would it be?
A small helicopter wheel barrow that scoops up compost and flies over to dump it where you need it.
How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products? (website, FB, insta, twitter handles)
This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity, Province of British Columbia, and Columbia Basin Trust.