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 Ariella Falkowski from Sweet Acres Farm, and my Mentor is Niki Strutynski at Tatlo Road Farm.
Where do you farm?
On leased land at Lohbrunner Community Farm, in Langford, BC
What do you farm?
Mixed vegetables and culinary herbs
What inspired you to get into farming?
I come from an environmental studies and activism background, and my desire to do something that would have a tangible positive impact on the world initially got me into it. In addition to those reasons still being important to me, I have stayed in it because I LOVE eating good food and feeding people; I love working outside; I love doing hard physical labour (and seeing the literal fruits of those labours); I love the cyclical, seasonal nature of farming; I love the variety of the work involved (from problem solving and planning to mindless/meditative weeding and harvesting); and I love that farms and farming can be vehicles for bringing people together and building community.
How did you learn how to farm?
While I considered going the route of formal education through the Sustainable Agriculture Program at Fleming College, in the end I simply worked on farms to learn the craft. I worked on 4 different farms for 7 years before starting Sweet Acres Farm, all the while furthering my learning through online courses (through the Cornell Small Farms program) and through lots of reading, podcasts, and time spent with other farmers talking shop.
What types of ecological farm practices do you use?
I am Certified Organic.
What type of business structure is your farm?
It is a sole proprietorship, which operates on leased land at Lohbrunner Community Farm, which is managed by the Lohbrunner Community Farm Co-op.
How much land is under production on your farm?
Excluding roads and field edges, 1 acre will be under full production this year. There is an additional 1/3 acre section that I will bring into production within the next couple of years.
What is your land tenure? Are there special relationships that allow for this?
Lohbrunner Community Farm is held in trust and owned by Farm Folk City Folk (FFCF). The Lohbrunner Community Farm Co-op (LCFC) leases the full 13 acre farm property from FFCF, and then I lease 2 acres from LCFC of which I am also a member – confused yet!?
Why did you apply for business mentorship?
Because I would like to treat my farm business more like a business, in order to have a better work/life balance and a profitable farm, and avoid the burn out I see take place in many of the small scale mixed vegetable farmers around me. And because farming is a challenging and unique business, I wanted to apply for a business mentorship specific to farmers because that felt like it would be the most useful and relatable to me.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a young farmer?
Learning how to run a small business, in all that entails! I spent many years learning how to farm, and while those years and skills were invaluable to me, it didn’t really prepare me for the actual running a business side, which I have mostly been learning as I go on the fly.
What is your primary business goal for the season?
To balance profitability with a healthier work life balance. Also, to get a better book keeping system in place either through partnering with a book keeper or through learning Quickbooks Online.
What business tools could you not live without?
My laptop and phone, period! I hate to say it, but those two things make running a small business from home possible for me.
If you had a farming robot what would it be?
It would deal with all things floating row cover – I use row cover (Reemay) for a lot of crops at different stages in their lives, and so spend a lot of time messing around with it. This robot would cover new plantings with row cover, uncover them for me when I need to weed/harvest, etc what is underneath, cover them back up when I am done, shovel back in row cover that is blowing off in the wind, and roll it up, label, and store it at the end of the year. I would call it the ReemayRobot.
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.