B.C. Business Mentorship Network – Suelo & Faa

Posted by Melanie Buffel on May 04, 2022

Young Agrarians is celebrating the eighth 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 2022 Mentee Cohort have been working and planning with the support of their Mentors and we are  thrilled to profile them and wish them lots of success for the year ahead!

Watch out for applications to open again in fall of 2022!

My name is Teresa Porter. I operate Suelo & Faa with my business partner Chantelle Chan. My mentor is Amie Bengston of BackCountry Blooms.
Where do you farm? Please include the traditional territory acknowledgement if you know it. 
We farm on the traditional and stolen territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ nations, now also home to many First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
What do you farm?
We grow specialty cut-flowers in front and back yards of Hastings-Sunrise, our neighbourhood in East Vancouver!
What inspired you to get into farming?
I grew up in the city, and wasn’t exposed to anything agricultural beyond the backyard for the first half of my life. After starting my undergraduate degree in science, I took a year off to participate in a cultural exchange program. I spent time in rural Quebec and rural Mali with a small group of Canadian and Malian youth. We were exposed to diverse farming systems, learned about food security, and worked on community initiatives, including assisting in setting up a community farm in Mali. At age 19, this was a formative experience for me. I was drawn to agriculture because it is at the intersection of justice, culture, and ecology. When I returned to Vancouver, I switched into the Faculty of Land and Food Systems to study Global Resource Systems with a focus on sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty. After I graduated, I got a job on an organic vegetable farm and I was hooked.
What did you do to learn how to farm?
Mostly, I learned to farm on the job, working as a farm hand on several organic vegetable farms in BC.  I also took a lot of relevant courses—agroecology, soil science, entomology, plant physiology, etc. I have an MSc in soil science and I’m an Articling Agrologist.
What types of ecological farm practices do you use?
As an urban farm, it’s not really possible for us to be certified organic. That said, we are quite particular about our methods. We don’t use substances that are not approved for organic use (e.g. synthetic fertilizers, pesticides). We try to avoid plastic, we use drip irrigation, we rotate our crops, we use low-till practices, we don’t use peat, and we keep our soils covered with cover crops and mulch. This year we are ordering biological controls for the first time—there’s always something to improve on!
What type of business structure is your farm?
Our business is a partnership!
How much land is under production on your farm?
We farm at six different sites, for a total of about 3000 square feet. It is truly a micro-farm at this point, but lots of flowers can be grown in a small space!
What is your land tenure? Are there special relationships that enabled this (family, BCLMP)?
We have agreements with our site hosts on a yearly basis, and we use their space in exchange for a CSA membership. We received support through the Young Agrarians BC Land Matching Program to develop our land-use agreements!
Why did you apply for business mentorship?
We applied for the business mentorship program because after our first year in production, we knew there was a lot of room for improvement. We had a lot of flower-related questions about yield forecasting, pricing, and succession planning but most of our farm contacts were vegetable farmers. It’s been a real game changer to have an expert flower farmer to turn to with our queries! Amie has been super helpful and supportive.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a new farmer?
Marketing has been a challenge for us. We know the customers are out there, but they don’t necessarily know we exist yet!
What is your primary business goal for the season?
Our overarching business goal is to become profitable, not just as a technicality, but to actually be able to pay ourselves for our work. Developing a solid plan is a must!
What business tools could you not live without?
In terms of the business admin side, I could not live without spreadsheets. That’s how we keep track of our finances, our tubers and seeds, and our crop plans. A new tool we are trying is Toggl Track, which I’m hoping will be really helpful as we develop enterprise budgets for a few crops this year.
If you had a farming robot what would it be?
In the urban environment, even within one neighbourhood, it can be a bit of a drag to move from site to site. There’s a lot of loading and unloading involved, especially on harvest days. An ideal robot would transport us and our buckets of blooms as needed!
How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products? 

You can find out more about us at our website suelofaa.com, and sign up for our newsletter! We are also on instagram @suelofaa and facebook Suelo & Faa.

This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity and Columbia Basin Trust.

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