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!
My name is Ardeo Mann and my farm is Rake and Radish Farm. I’m being mentored by Arzeena Hamir from Amara Farm.
Where do you farm?
I farm on the unceded territory of the W̱SÁNEĆ people, on the north side of PKOLS. The farm feels rural, but it’s actually in the suburbs, about 10 kilometres from downtown Victoria, BC.
What do you farm?
My main focus is mixed veggies which I sell through a CSA box program. I also grow strawberries and dabble in cut flowers which my CSA customers can add on to their box shares. In total, I grow over 45 crops over the course of the season.
What inspired you to get into farming?
My farming dream started with drawing complicated maps of potential farm set-ups and pursuing real estate listings with my best friends at about age 9. Since then there have definitely been a number of reality checks along the way, with the sheer amount of work farming is and the financial reality of growing food for a living. But the main factors this whole time have been wanting to be doing something very tangible and hands-on combined with a solid dose of idealism and a dash of wanting to spite the adults in my life who told me I’d be “wasting my potential” by farming instead of going to university.
I love doing something that lets me be outside all day (even when my fingers are numb and the absolute worst), where I’m so closely connected to each changing season and knowing I’m growing food to feed people I care about makes it so worthwhile.
What did you do to learn how to farm?
My farming education started in earnest with taking the Agriculture 12 course in high school, which at the tiny school on Saturna Island involved learning from a number of different community members involved in farming and gardening. A few days after I finished grade 12, I started my first farm internship at Singing Bird Farm on Saltspring Island. The following summer, I landed a job as a farm hand at City’s Edge Farm in Saanich, where I spent three seasons working and learning as much as I possibly could.
And I’m definitely nowhere near being done learning how to farm. Let’s just say I don’t think farming during climate change is ever going to be boring…
What types of ecological farm practices do you use?
I use crop rotation, cover cropping, mulch, and try to reduce tillage when possible. Rake and Radish has a triple bottom line of financial, emotional and environmental sustainability which is used to inform decision making on the farm.
What type of business structure is your farm?
Rake and Radish is a sole proprietorship.
How much land is under production on your farm?
I currently have just over a half acre fenced and in production. My lease is for two acres though, so I have room to expand in future years, if I decide that I’m just not busy enough as it stands.
What is your land tenure?
I have a three year lease agreement that was solidified through the BC Land Matching Program. I canvassed my neighbourhood last winter asking if anyone would be interested in leasing land to a young farmer. My next door neighbours, who I’d never met before, wrote me to say that they’d love to see their hayfield used to launch my farm business.
Why did you apply for YA business mentorship?
I applied for the YA Business Mentorship Network because everything to do with the planning, marketing and financial side of farming has been a bit of a mystery to me.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a young farmer?
Honestly, trying to make a living for myself in agriculture without burning out is my biggest challenge currently. Farm expenses are high and it takes a lot of bunches of turnips to pay rent.
What is your primary business goal for the season?
My primary business goal this season is to work less 16 hour days and instead have some solid planning done before the chaos of the summer starts.
What business tools could you not live without?
As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t imagine farming without my iPhone. (Is this what happens when Gen Z starts farming? I promise I was the last of my friends to get a phone…)
Being able to directly input records into spreadsheets in the field, record the hours I work, take photos for social media posts and my weekly newsletter, take photos of weird pest and disease issues to research later, google pressing questions in the field, make phone calls while I weed and break up the long, solo work days with interesting podcasts. It’s a game changer!
If you had a farming robot what would it be?
My farming robot would just weed 24/7.
How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products?
Website: rakeandradish.ca (The farm’s website is also where you can sign up for the farm’s CSA box program!)
And I love chatting farming so feel free to give me a shout, especially if you’re a young person wondering about getting into farming!
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.