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!
Please tell us your full name(s), your farm name and who your Mentor is (are).
Forest Nergaard-Short & Graeme Wahn of Tomato Daily Half Acre, my Mentor is Emma Sowiak of Bent Plow Farm
Where do you farm? Please include the traditional territory acknowledgement if you know it. What do you farm?
Lake Country, The unceded territory of the Syilx (Okanagan) peoples. We farm vegetables, market garden style.
What inspired you to get into farming?
When the pandemic hit I had been working at a restaurant in Vancouver for 4 years, and was enrolled to take the Farming Practicum at UBC. All of this came to halt at once and I found myself obsessing with the idea of my own plot to lease and teaching myself as I went!
What did you do to learn how to farm?
I grew up with a big home garden in Kelowna, and also kept my own garden outside of my rental in Vancouver. I read books, watched videos, but hands on experience and making countless mistakes continues to grant me the most knowledge.
What types of ecological farm practices do you use?
We prepared our growing area with one initial till from a friend with a tractor, and other than that we are committed to only using hand tools across the farm – maybe in the future investing in some battery power/solar tools for some soil working. We don’t use any sprays or chemical fertilizers at all, and aim to foster more and more biodiversity across the farm by planting a variety of pollinators, perennial shrubs, as well at native plantings to make up hedgerows/windbreaks.
What type of business structure is your farm?
We are a sole proprietorship market garden – selling from a farm stand and at our local farmer’s market.
How much land is under production on your farm?
Our actual growing space is about a ¼ acre (including paths) but we are also leasing another open field towards the bottom of the property and here will focus on growing some low maintenance cover crops and maybe pumpkins and winter squash.
What is your land tenure? Are there special relationships that enabled this (family, BCLMP)?
We found this lease with the support of the Young Agrarians BC Land Matching Program. Throughout 2020 we looked at several properties and landed on this one. We finally got access to the land in March 2021 and currently hold a year to year lease with the landowner who lives next door. During the 2021 season we were commuting from Kelowna to Lake Country every day, but in September of 2021 we conveniently found a rental that is right next door (on the other side) to the leased land. It is already so much easier to just walk 2 minutes out the door and be able to work!
Why did you apply for business mentorship?
This is my second year farming and I knew I wanted to make some major changes to the way I go about business. I do, after all, want this to be my main source of income sooner than later.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a new farmer? What is your primary business goal for the season?
I would say learning who my customers are, we live in a small community with many farms, our first season we tried out selling “harvest boxes” from our last home located in Kelowna, but this year we live nextdoor to the farm so we are choosing to pivot to sales primarily at the local Farmers Market and at a farmstand onsite. This shift means possibly losing sales to our few regular customers from last season, but will allow us to focus on new clientele.
What business tools could you not live without?
Our first year of farming was very low tech, we treated the farm as a trial garden more than anything. This year we’re most excited to actually collect our own data from the farm: how much we’re yielding per crop, crop sales at Market, quantity of seed needed, etc. Hopefully after this year we will have some must-have business tools.
If you had a farming robot what would it be?
I mean, I’m sure everyone would want a weeding robot, but I think also some kind of umbrella wielding robot that follows me around casting shade.
How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products? (website, FB, insta, twitter handles)
Check out our website tomatodailyhalfacre.com and our Instagram @tomatodaily_halfacre. Also on TikTok!!
This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity and Columbia Basin Trust.