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.
The 2021 Mentee Cohort are hard at work planning for the season ahead and we are thrilled to profile them and celebrate their efforts!
My name is Vida Rose, and I farm at Vida Farm. My mentor is Arzeena Hamir.
Where do you farm?
I am a small-scale urban farmer on half an acre in Richmond, BC.
What do you farm?
Vida Farm is all about growing biodiverse vegetables. I am growing more than a hundred different varieties of vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, okras, watermelons (melons), eggplants, peppers, beans, herbs, lettuces, squash (winter-summer) and strawberries.
Biodiverse vegetables offer more food choices to the consumers and support sustainable food security.
What inspired you to get into farming?
I live in Steveston village which is close to many small farms. Deep down in my heart, I knew that growing food was a real job, not what I was doing before in a cubicle as a software engineer.
In 2015, I was between jobs, and I saw this as an opportunity to make a shift in my future. I signed up for the community garden close to home and decided to begin gardening. Next year, I was at my garden and delighted about the limitless possibilities and happiness offered by nature.
It was a heart-melting experience to observe the growth from a tiny seed into that of a healthy plant. I had developed connections to plants and discovered my natural ability to grow food. I could take a calculated risk and manage the unexpected whenever they came up during the growing season. I could move on and start over many times until I reached my realistic goal.
In 2016 I began volunteering in Richmond food security and participated in many workshops related to farming, beekeeping, soil health and growing organic food. I learned about the concept of food security, seed saving, local grower, ALR, urban and small-scale farming. In 2019, the opportunity arose to become an incubator farmer, and I embraced it.
What did you do to learn how to farm?
In 2016, I decided to grow my food for the first time in the Gilbert community garden by direct seeding. I had no prior knowledge of how to grow vegetables. However, surprisingly I produced a good amount of fresh and tasty vegetables. In 2017, I grew more vegetables, and I also seeded indoor using my own saved seeds.
In 2018 and 2019, I was at KPU Richmond farm school to learn to farm, while I had my community garden and an area to grow vegetables in my favourite temple. I started my farm business in 2020, and during this year, I had this chance to farm next to another experienced incubator farmer, Dan (Fractal Farm). He was very supportive and helpful in answering my questions.
I watched his way of farming in the complete cycle and learned valuable farming techniques.
What types of ecological farm practices do you use?
I protect soil, the life and the beneficial organisms within it by using the no-dig method. At the end of the season, I plant cover crops to prevent soil erosion and preserve soil moisture. To manage the excessive growth of weeds, I use dripping irrigation to apply water just to the root zone and keep the unplanted area dry. I am promoting biodiversity and rotating crops to keep soil healthy and make production systems more resilient to disease and pests. I have planted lots of perennials to attract bees and beneficial insects. As an urban farmer, the distance between farm and market is short, which reduces my carbon footprint.
What type of business structure is your farm?
I have registered my farm as a Partnership.
How much land is under production on your farm?
I have access to half an acre to grow vegetables, though I will extend my farm next year.
What is your land tenure?
After graduation from KPU Richmond farm school, I applied for an incubator farm which is available to lease for three years. The land belongs to the City of Richmond, and Richmond Farm School is its facilitator. I will use the services provided by the BC Land Matching Program delivered by Young Agrarians to find my future land.
Why did you apply for YA business mentorship?
I had heard about this program, and I needed to learn from experienced farmers to guide me to find my way into the farming business. I needed to discover more about accounting, tax, marketing, pricing, setting my realistic financial goals based on my investment and resources. As a new farmer, I needed to learn how to adjust my sales strategy to maximize profit to secure the business.
What is the greatest business challenge you face as a new farmer?
There is a lack of governmental financial support in any form for small-scale farmers. I was not able to get any grant or low-rate interest loan. Most governmental assistance and relief programs are for bigger-scale farmers, while small growers are in the greater need to be supported.
What is your primary business goal for the season?
I am using family money to invest in the farm. My goal is to have a secure and stable farm, financially and business-wise. I wish to save sufficient funds for next year after covering this year’s expenses.
What business tools could you not live without?
I cannot live without:
1- Square, which I use to receive payments
2- Spreadsheets which I use to record my financial data, plant planning, and all other data related to farm
3- Social media, which I am using as my digital marketing tool
If you had a farming robot what would it be?
I would like to have a transplanter robot. Transplanting seedlings is very time-consuming and needs you to be patient and attentive. Most of the time, I will do my transplants by myself because I cannot find a proper person to do this task.
How can we find out more about you, your farm, and its products?
Vida Farm is reachable through:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VidaFarm.Richmond (@VidaFarm.Richmond)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VidaFarmRich (@VidaFarmRich)
This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity and Columbia Basin Trust.