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 2021 Mentee Cohort are wrapping up their growing season and reflecting back on the lessons of the year. We are thrilled to profile them and celebrate their efforts as we begin the match process with our new cohort of farmers for the BMN 2022 program. For more information please see our YA Business Page.
My name is Vida Rose. I am operating Vida Farm in Richmond, BC.
What were your goals for this season, and how did you work to achieve those?
My goals were to increase my income for two reasons. Firstly, to cover the remaining expenses from both last year and this year, and secondly to have some funds for next year.
I started to figure out what to grow, what was in demand in the marketplace. I also decided to grow new vegetables that might catch people’s interest.
Did you meet your goals / did it work out? (Explain a bit)
Yes, I did. I did this by more accurately planning what to grow, taking more to the market and doubling my stock at my booth.
I added a 170-foot greenhouse to my existing one and grew more than 15 different types of heirloom and cherry tomatoes in different colours and sizes. I also grew different varieties of eggplants, okras, cucumbers, loofas, kiwano and ginger.
I also allocated a separate area to watermelons, melons, squash and zucchinis.
What were the major challenges in the season?
I, unfortunately, could not find enough people to help me with some of the higher priority tasks. Almost all of the jobs at the farm are time-sensitive, and it is essential to achieve them at the right time. As a result of this, sometimes it was difficult or not possible to finish the work on time.
What resources did you find most valuable to support your business to navigate these?
I spread the word through social media and in person at the market. I would ask friends and whoever else I could reach. While costly, I believe a business needs to have at least one employee.
What were your best sales channels/avenues?
Mount Pleasant Farmers Market, UBC Farmers Market and the New Westminster Farmers Market are where I sell my veggies, and they are all wonderful.
Why do your customers buy from you (what is your unique value proposition in your market)?
My specialty is on fresh vegetables that are missing or offered less at the market. For example, I grow more varieties of tomatoes, summer zucchinis, watermelons, melons, cucumbers and eggplants. I enjoy discussing the unique tastes of each vegetable and its nutritional facts with customers. I give them examples of meals I have prepared with the vegetables.
I offer good quality produce, and my goal is to build solid trust with my customers. I have made some regular customers who are very happy with my produce.
What was the most important information or idea(s) you gained from the mentorship?
I had a lot of plans for my farm that the mentorship helped me to assess accurately, especially in terms of what is doable and how I could achieve them.
What specific business skills did the mentorship help you develop?
There were some areas in the farming business which were not clear to me. I didn’t have a decent knowledge of accounting, tax and marketing. I received a lot of information in these areas, and the mentorship introduced lots of other resources to help me learn more.
How did mentorship impact your business overall?
Mentorship has provided me guidance, solutions, information and direction whenever I needed it. This program gave me peace of mind, and I was less stressed and was able to focus more on my daily tasks.
What were the big hard lessons this season you would want to share with other farmers?
This season was a big learning experience with several unforeseen circumstances which I didn’t mind dealing with them because this is the reality of being a farmer.
The heatwave, the dropping temperature, strong winds, and pests were an example of some of these circumstances.
I also came across a weeds problem and despite my efforts to suppress their growth, some still managed through.
What plans do you have for future farm growth (where would you like your business to go)?
I would like to grow more herbs, root vegetables and maybe even flowers. It really will depend on my resources. Additionally, I would like to grow some medicinal herbs in a few years.
Find Vida on FB @VidaFarm.Richmond
This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity and Columbia Basin Trust.