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.
Applications are now open for our BMN 2021 Mentee Cohort. Find more information and an application form here. Deadline to apply is November 6th, 2020.
We are wrapping up with our 2020 Mentee Cohort and are thrilled to profile them and celebrate their efforts!
Ashala Daniel is the owner of Solstedt Organics (previously Sapo Bravo Organics) in Lytton, BC and is a participant in the 2020 Young Agrarians Business Mentorship Network Program.
What were your goals for this season and how did you work to achieve those?
Change my business name which I did! Also get more organized in a calendar sense and create a digital monthly/yearly workflow for myself and template for others. It is still a work in progress as I input data, but I will share it once it’s done.
Did you meet your goals / did it work out? (Explain a bit)
I did! Changing my farm name was a really big deal and even though the process was time consuming and frustrating, it was very necessary and I am so happy with the new name. The calendar is more of an organic thing for now as I continue to input data.
What effect did Covid19 have on your business?
None at the onset as I was busy farming while everyone was in lockdown. By July when I was starting to go to market, a lot of systems had been worked out, restaurants were open again and I was able to have a fairly normal year. The market was the most frustrating. Because of my placement in the market, (basically the middle) and customers being asked to enter in one side and exit another, I had so many customers arrive at my booth and say they wished they knew what I had or they would not have bought from a vendor earlier in the line-up. I think the market did the best they could, but a lot of vendors at the bottom end of the market suffered and they didn’t seem too concerned.
What resources did you find most valuable to support your business to navigate the changes?
The fact that I already had a fresh sheet going out to restaurants every week meant it was easy to add customers who wanted to know what I would be coming with every week and even placing pre-orders for market pick-up. I also connected with a home-delivery grocery service who made some big purchases from me which was great.
What were your best sales channels/avenues?
Restaurants for sure.
Why do your customers buy from you (what is your unique value proposition in your market)?
I’ve been told that my product is very high quality, always beautiful in presentation, either in a box packed for restaurant or at the market. Also, as all my food is grown outside, not in greenhouses, I think there is a more intense flavour to everything.
What was the most important information or idea(s) you gained from the mentorship?
I can’t think of just one. I just know I felt very cared for and calm whenever I spoke with my mentor and she made me feel that I could achieve whatever I wanted and all movement was relevant and important.
What specific business skills did the mentorship help you develop?
More organization in planning, both crops and work and confidence to try new crops.
How did mentorship impact your business overall?
Very positively. I feel very supported by the mentorship and though there was not as much communication as there could have been, it was all positive and challenging.
What were the big hard lessons this season you would want to share with other farmers?
It’s ok to be completely overwhelmed and lose your cool, as long as you can bring yourself back to center and take a step. I had a moment in high season this year when I felt like I had too much food and couldn’t sell it all. After freaking out for a minute, I started processing and now have more than enough food for the winter and spring.
What plans do you have for future farm growth (where would you like your business to go)?
No farm growth really, just fine-tuning crops and possibly selling next year at the Lytton farmer’s market as well.
What are you most looking forward to this winter?
Hopefully spending more time at the farm, reading, stoking the fire, walking the dog and less time in the city avoiding people.
Find out more about the Business Mentorship Program and fill out an application here. Deadline for submissions is November 6, 2020.
This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity and Columbia Basin Trust.